Tesla responds to D.C. businessman’s complaints

Tesla Inc. has responded to comments made in a Tuesday guest blog on the Automotive News website by Washington, D.C., businessman Alain Cohen.

Cohen, a self-described Tesla fan, filed a lawsuit against Tesla in Fairfax County, Va., claiming that he encountered several problems with his Tesla. He wrote that Tesla was not responsive to his need for timely repair work. He contends his experience signaled that Tesla was losing its way with its loyal customers.

On Thursday, Tesla issued this statement in response to Cohen’s comments:

Tesla consistently achieves the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any auto manufacturer because we do everything we can to ensure owners have the best possible experience. Our philosophy is to work closely with a customer to resolve issues if they are encountered, however we will also strongly defend ourselves against claims that are unjust or lack merit. We have this same philosophy for every customer because we believe that all customers should be treated equally well. This is a matter of basic fairness.

All of the issues mentioned by this customer have long ago been fixed under warranty, at no expense to the customer, to the extent that repairs have been requested and are appropriate. The only exceptions are the seat, which we have been trying to install for many months, but the customer has chosen not to bring in the car to have it replaced, and the Bluetooth, which we have confirmed is operating correctly. Even though there are no remaining issues with his car, the customer has demanded a new vehicle, plus an additional cash payment. These demands are simply unreasonable.

Cohen, who was co-founder and president of OPNET Technologies, a Nasdaq traded company until it was sold for $1 billion in 2012, then issued this statement:

In the process of trying to have the car seat repaired, I did NOT ask for a new car in lieu of having the car seat fixed! I think my emails to the company and all the documentation in the lawsuit shows that I was just asking for the seat to be repaired in a timely manner. Nor did I ask for an additional cash payment. What they are saying is simply false.

I think they are probably referring to a dialog they had with my attorney where they asked “what do I want” to settle the case. That is an entirely separate question because it is what I asked for once things had to escalate to this extreme point of legal action. Also, those were not the demands in the lawsuit. They asked for a list that would “make things right” at this point. I also asked for an apology and a commitment to a 72 hour response time in the future for my service inquiries.

The notion that I have not brought my car in despite their request is false. I have not received any notices from them that they are ready to install the replacement seat is false. If that were true why didn’t their attorney mention it to my attorney when they spoke. The last contact I had with them was with Mr. Alberto Cortinas (the most senior person I spoke with) who promised to fix the problem promptly, and then subsequently did not return any of my emails or calls. I haven’t received calls, emails, and nor has my assistant.

BMW remaps the roadster with Concept Z4

PHOTO GALLERY: BMW Concept Z4








PHOTO GALLERY >>

BMW Group on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited concept car that indicates the design direction for the next-generation Z4 roadster.

The Concept Z4, introduced during Monterey Car Week in Pebble Beach, Calif., is BMW’s vision of a modern roadster. It is a preview of the production car that BMW says is set “to be revealed over the course of next year.” The next-generation Z4 is expected to go on sale in the U.S. in the first half of 2019.

BMW Group design chief Adrian van Hooydonk says the Z4 concept “expresses the new BMW design language from all perspectives and in all details.”

“Stripping the car back to the essentials allows the driver to experience all the ingredients of motoring pleasure with supreme directness,” Hooydonk said in a statement. “This is total freedom on four wheels.”

Compact, sporty cars are a small but bright spot in an overall U.S. car market that is expected to shrink for the fourth consecutive year in 2017. U.S. sales of small sporty cars, largely behind the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat Spider, are up 9 percent this year while the overall car market has slumped 12 percent.

The last Z4 went out of production in August 2016. BMW is working with Toyota to jointly develop the Z4’s replacement and a Toyota sports coupe speculated to be a revived Toyota Supra. The cars will use a new lightweight platform, and the next-generation Z4 is expected to grow in size.

The Concept Z4 has classic roadster design cues such as a long wheelbase, a low-slung and stretched silhouette and a compact rear end. But a shorter hood and “crisp” overhangs in the wedge-shaped concept put the driver closer to the center of the car than in previous BMW roadsters, the company says.

It also notes that juxtaposition of the low-set kidney grille and higher-up headlights makes for a deliberate association with the old BMW Z8. Instead of the customary bars, the inside of the kidney grille uses an elaborate mesh meant to recall the design of early BMW roadsters such as the BMW 328 Mille Miglia. The vehicle’s interior is designed for a total focus on the driving experience. Display screens are integrated into the driver’s cockpit, and all controls are grouped into what are called function islands.

There had been speculation that the Z4’s successor would be named the Z5, but that will not happen. Whether the new car will include a manual transmission had been in question. But reports indicate that a manual will be offered, along with new four- and six-cylinder engines. A plug-in hybrid variant is possible. A fabric roof will replace the retractable hard top on the previous-generation Z4.

Canada pushes back as NAFTA talks heat up

WASHINGTON — The Canadians may be characteristically polite as they carry out negotiations to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement, but apparently they won’t be pushovers.

In a briefing following the opening day of NAFTA talks Wednesday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland forcefully pushed back against two key U.S. negotiating objectives regarding trade deficits and rules of origin.

Hours earlier, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer complained in harsh terms that NAFTA had been a job destroyer and needed a major overhaul, while his counterparts talked in positive terms about modernizing the 23-year-old agreement without harming existing economic benefits. He reiterated the Trump administration’s interest in narrowing trade deficits, pointing to a $57 billion shortfall with Mexico and even calling out Canada for cumulatively exporting $365 million more in goods than it imported over the past decade, despite overall bilateral trade being almost perfectly balanced last year.

Freeland rebutted that view, saying those numbers fail to give a meaningful picture of the trade relationship.

“Canada does not view trade surpluses or deficits as a primary measure of whether a trading relationship works,” she told reporters at the Canadian Embassy here, with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.

She noted that the U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus with Canada in 2016 and that a holistic view of trade includes services, an area where the U.S. dominates.

“Services are an essential and growing part of the 21st-century economy,” she said. “It’s important to include them in any measure of a trade balance.”

Excluding Canadian energy exports from merchandise trade, the U.S. actually runs a $26.5 billion surplus, while in manufactured goods, the U.S. has a $34.2 billion advantage, she noted.

The foreign minister also dismissed Lighthizer’s insistence that the U.S. will seek “substantial” U.S. content requirements in addition to a higher regional content requirement to qualify for duty-free trade.

“Canada is not in favor of specific national content in rules of origin,” she said.

In the auto sector, 62.5 percent of a light vehicle’s value must have North American content to avoid duty when crossing one of the land borders. Mexican officials have suggested they could entertain a small bump in the regional content requirement but find national content requirements unacceptable.

“We are very aware of the extreme complexity of rules of origin, and it’s going to be very important from a Canadian perspective to take very great care in any changes that are made to ensure that they don’t disrupt supply chains,” Freeland said.

Automakers have warned the Trump administration that any changes to rules of origin could upset a manufacturing ecosystem that depends on a closely choreographed exchange of parts and supplies between vendors in all three nations that efficiently add value to components before delivery to the assembly plant.

“We do not believe that changes to the NAFTA auto rules of origin alone will accomplish a goal to increase employment here in the U.S.,” Ann Wilson, senior vice president for government affairs at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturing Association, said in a statement.

Freeland reiterated that Canada’s priorities are to maintain NAFTA’s ability to drive economic growth, cut red tape and harmonize regulations, and make it more progressive with regard to labor, gender and indigenous peoples as well as environmental protection.

GM thwarts plaintiffs’ $1 billion accord with Old GM trust fund

NEW YORK — General Motors thwarted a $15 million settlement between the company’s bankruptcy trust and thousands of plaintiffs that would have forced the automaker to contribute $1 billion in stock, prompting claims of a plot cooked up behind closed doors.

The now-derailed deal was intended to resolve hundreds of personal-injury cases stemming from GM’s faulty ignition switches, as well as a class-action suit over millions of vehicles that allegedly lost value due to a series of recalls in 2014. In a letter filed Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, lawyers for the plaintiffs said GM conspired with the trust to block the accord after GM previously accused the trust and the plaintiffs of engaging in the same behavior in negotiations last week.

GM “undertook a secret, contrived scheme to undermine the settlement agreement through a campaign of threats, intimidation and payoffs,” plaintiffs attorney Edward Weisfelner said in the letter, which was dated Wednesday. “At a minimum, it is the pot calling the kettle black.”

GM had fumed at the settlement and promised a court fight over what it called a “contrived scheme” to extract the $1 billion in stock. The company has been fighting to move on from the litigation after previously paying at least $870 million to settle claims and an additional $900 million to the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal probe.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said “we are pleased” that the company can continue fighting what it calls bogus personal injury claims in court instead of settling.

“Now the focus can return to where it belongs, which is the merits of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims,” he said in an email. “We will demonstrate that those claims lack merit.”

The General Unsecured Creditors Trust said it reached a separate agreement with GM under which the auto maker will pay the trust an unspecified sum to cover legal expenses for fighting the claims, according to a separate letter filed Wednesday in court.

“The GUC Trust has decided to resolve this dispute through a proposed settlement agreement with New GM,” the trust’s attorney, Matthew J. Williams, said in the letter. The previous talks with plaintiffs “did not result in a final or binding agreement.”

The settlement between the plaintiffs and the trust was due to be signed Aug. 15 and discussed at a hearing in bankruptcy court Thursday. Under that deal, the trust would have paid plaintiffs $15 million and accepted $10 billion in previously disputed claims, which would have pushed total approved claims in the case beyond a critical threshold of $35 billion.

That would have triggered a provision of the 2009 bankruptcy sale that would have forced GM to contribute $1 billion in stock to help pay the claims. GM argues the $10 billion figure had no basis in fact, and that the claims are barred because they were filed too late after the bankruptcy.

GM was encouraged to keep fighting the claims after recent court rulings narrowed the types of cases that can survive the litigation. One such ruling in July 2016 found the plaintiffs’ broadest theory of damages as “unprecedented and unsound.” GM has also come out on top in a series of test trials in cases over faulty switches that the company didn’t believe were legitimate.

The case is In Re: General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation, 14-MD-2543, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

GM creditor trust drops settlement with plaintiffs; GM avoids $1 billion stock transfer

NEW YORK — In a blow to plaintiffs’ lawyers suing General Motors over faulty ignition switches and other alleged vehicle defects, a trust that holds many GM liabilities from before its 2009 bankruptcy has canceled a settlement that sought to force the automaker to pay $1 billion in shares to resolve millions of claims.

The claims stem from GM’s 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches, including one linked to 124 deaths. They have since expanded to include millions of financial loss claims and hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death claims over a variety of alleged defects in millions of cars.

The settlement, first disclosed at a court hearing last week, would have called for the trust to accept $10 billion in claims, triggering a provision in GM’s bankruptcy plan that could have forced it to pay $1 billion in stock to the trust to pay off the plaintiffs.

GM opposed the settlement.

GM previously paid more than $870 million to settle claims and an additional $900 million to the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a criminal probe.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a court filing late on Wednesday they had learned of the “astonishing and improper” decision to jettison the settlement the day before a scheduled court hearing on the matter.

“Game isn’t over,” Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an email on Thursday. “We had a deal, GM has knowingly interfered with our deal and we intend to take action against GM on various fronts.”

He said the plaintiffs could bring a legal action against GM for interfering with the agreement and seek to seize the trust’s assets.

According to a letter filed earlier on Wednesday by the trust and GM, the trust decided to drop the settlement after GM agreed to help pay for the trust to defend against the plaintiffs’ claims.

“We are pleased with today’s developments,” GM said in a statement. “Now the focus can return to where it belongs, which is the merits of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims. We will demonstrate that those claims lack merit.”

Berman said in an interview last week that the settlement with the trust would have resolved about 11.9 million economic loss claims and between 400 and 500 personal injury and wrongful death claims.

About 2.4 million claims, involving vehicles sold after GM’s bankruptcy, would have remained in pending in district court, Berman said.

GM has been encouraged to keep fighting various past claims after recent court rulings narrowed the types of cases that can survive the litigation. One such ruling in July 2016 found the plaintiffs’ broadest theory of damages as “unprecedented and unsound.” GM has also come out on top in a series of test trials in cases over faulty switches that the company didn’t believe were legitimate.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

Ford settles racial, sexual harassment probe for $10.1 million

Ford Motor Co. agreed to pay $10.1 million to settle sexual and racial harassment allegations by workers at two Chicago plants, resolving an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The investigation yielded reasonable cause that personnel at the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant had subjected African-American and female employees to racial and sexual harassment — violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the agency said in a statement Tuesday,

The agency also said the company retaliated against employees who complained about harassment or discrimination.

Ford, in a statement, said it agreed to close the matter without admission of liability to “avoid an extended dispute.”

The automaker added that after conducting its own investigation “appropriate action” was taken, including “disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for individuals who violated the company’s anti-harassment policy.”

Eligible employees are entitled to a portion of the settlement via a claims process outlined in the agreement.

It also ensures that during the next five years, Ford will conduct training regularly at the Chicago facilities, and “continue to disseminate” anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures to employees and new hires.

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to add any additional information about the case.

Ford said the group of employees eligible for settlement money are either women or African-American men who began working at the plant after Jan. 1, 2010, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The automaker will also consult the EEOC regarding complaints of harassment and related discrimination; and monitor its workforce regarding issues of that nature.

Ford agrees to settle $10.1 million in racial, sexual harassment investigation

Ford Motor Co. agreed to pay $10.1 million to settle sexual and racial harassment allegations by workers at two Chicago plants, resolving an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The investigation yielded reasonable cause that personnel at the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant had subjected African-American and female employees to racial and sexual harassment — violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the agency said in a statement Tuesday,

The agency also said the company retaliated against employees who complained about harassment or discrimination.

Ford, in a statement, said it agreed to close the matter without admission of liability to “avoid an extended dispute.”

The automaker added that after conducting its own investigation “appropriate action” was taken, including “disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for individuals who violated the company’s anti-harassment policy.”

Eligible employees are entitled to a portion of the settlement via a claims process outlined in the agreement.

It also ensures that during the next five years, Ford will conduct training regularly at the Chicago facilities, and “continue to disseminate” anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures to employees and new hires.

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to add any additional information about the case.

Ford said the group of employees eligible for settlement money are either women or African-American men who began working at the plant after Jan. 1, 2010, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The automaker will also consult the EEOC regarding complaints of harassment and related discrimination; and monitor its workforce regarding issues of that nature.

DIY firms Homebase and B&Q suffer sales slump

B&Q store

The UK’s two biggest DIY chains, B&Q and Homebase, have both reported a slide in sales this summer.

B&Q said sales at its established stores fell 5% in the three months to July amid a drop in demand for garden furniture and other summer products.

The fall dragged shares in B&Q owner Kingfisher down 4.1%, making it the biggest faller on the FTSE 100.

Meanwhile, Homebase reported a similar drop in quarterly sales under its new Australian owner.

George Salmon, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It looks like Kingfisher isn’t alone in having difficulties in the UK.

“The group’s flagship B&Q chain saw like-for-like sales fall 4.7%, which is similar to the 4.3% fall at Bunnings UK, the new owner of Homebase.”

As well as the Bunnings DIY chain, Wesfarmers also runs the supermarket chain Coles and the Kmart and Target chains in Australia.


Sales of summer products dropped nearly 11% at B&Q, partly because customers bought more of those items during the warm spring.

Kingfisher said it remained cautious about the economic outlook for the UK in the second half of the year.

However, its other DIY chain, Screwfix, continued its stellar run, with sales at existing stores rising 10% in the period.

Homebase’s results were partly dragged down by its transition under its Australian owner.

Bunnings UK, which bought Homebase for £340m last year, is changing the DIY retailer’s discounts and rebranding more stores under the .

In the first financial year since acquiring the chain, Bunnings UK booked a £54m loss on revenue of £1.2bn.

Bunnings Group managing director Michael Schneider it was braced for a “long slog” in the UK.

“The opportunity for the Homebase stores is going to be more clarity and consistency in execution,” he said. “There’s no silver bullet.”

Manheim bolsters its vehicle-valuation tool

The Manheim Market Report has been bolstered to deliver more detailed valuations of used vehicles and thus streamline the remarketing process, the company said.

Manheim is making four enhancements, according to a press release.

• The MMR will be the first valuation solution to use build data from automakers, when available, to decode vehicle identification numbers, which ensures the exact year, make, model and trim level are identified.

• Manheim is launching what it calls the “Adjusted MMR,” which will include the vehicle’s AutoGrade condition report, exterior color, mileage and region. Users can input these data points manually to get the Adjusted MMR. The goal is to provide more specific valuations that the company hopes will instill greater confidence in buyers and sellers when transacting online.

• Manheim is also rolling out a new MMR interface across desktop, tablet and mobile devices that enables users to quickly compare a vehicle’s Adjusted MMR to the Base MMR value.

• A new valuations interface gives clients on-demand access to the Adjusted MMR values.

“Internally, we had been wanting to enhance [the MMR]. We’ve been noticing in the marketplace there was a desire for more accurate vehicle valuations,” Ben Flusberg, Cox Automotive’s assistant vice president of insights and optimization, told Automotive News.

“We developed it internally and wanted to disseminate it out to the marketplace to instill more confidence and drive more transparency with our users. At the same time, we wanted to enhance the user interface to make it more visual and data-rich and user-friendly.”

Sellers can use the enhanced information offered by the Adjusted MMR to set an auction floor price, starting bid, or “buy now” price. Buyers, on the other hand, can use this information to determine the price they should be willing to pay for a particular vehicle vs. an average vehicle of the same year, make, model and style.

Roaming downtime hits customers on Three in Europe

Three logo

Roaming services are currently down for all customers on the Three mobile network in France, Portugal and Luxembourg, the operator has said.

On Twitter, several customers reported they had been experiencing problems for two days.

Three has apologised and said it is working on a solution.

The BBC understands that the issue does not lie with Three’s own network, but rather with its roaming partners in the three affected countries.

Emergency services are still contactable via 112, Three has said.

“I’m travelling alone and can’t make any calls or send any texts,” wrote .

Another said: “I’m driving to Paris tomorrow, and I’ve got to follow road signs because I have no connection for my Google Maps.”

BBC journalist Dougal Shaw – on holiday in France – also that he had been affected.

“I got lost in a market,” he wrote.