Ford Recalls 280,000 Vehicles

Ford has issued a recall for around 202,000 of its best-selling pick-up trucks, SUVs and cars over a problem with the transmission that could suddenly downshift and cause a drop in speed, reports Fortune. Ford said the problem was based in the software installed in its speed sensor, and the recall will involve an update and vehicle inspections. The Detroit-based automaker also recalled 81,000 2014-2015 Ford Explorer and Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to fix poor weld quality in its rear suspension links that could lead to a fracture.

The S.U.V. Arms Race Goes Upscale

One of the last big profit centers for Detroit’s automakers, the sport utility vehicle, is under siege, reports the New York Times. An onslaught of competitive new S.U.V.s, especially in the most profitable high-end segment, is in the development pipeline or already showing up in dealer showrooms. At this year’s New York International Auto Show, the star attractions weren’t the usual sleek sports and muscle cars, but new luxury S.U.V.s from Jaguar, Maserati (where a line formed for a chance to be enveloped in the wood-and leather-lined interior) and even Bentley, which had its new Bentayga safely cordoned off behind velvet ropes.

Engineers, safety advocates and even automakers have a message for federal regulators eager to get self-driving cars on the road: slow down

Engineers, safety advocates and even automakers have a safety message for federal regulators eager to get self-driving cars on the road: slow down, reports U.S. News and World Report. Fully self-driving cars may be the future of the automotive industry, but they aren’t yet up to the demands of real-world driving, several people told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during a public meeting Friday. A slower, more deliberative approach may be needed instead of the agency’s rapid timetable for producing guidance for deploying the vehicles, according to an auto industry trade association. In January, the federal agency announced that it would begin work on writing guidance for deploying the vehicles. Officials have promised to complete that guidance by July.

Automakers fight to regain trust in wake of VW scandal

Ever since Volkswagen Group confessed last September to cheating diesel emissions tests on an unprecedented scale, reports Automotive News Europe E-Magazine,   Europe’s auto industry has scurried to contain the reputational fallout from the public health risk and to deflect criticism from a technology deemed critical to meeting CO2 reduction targets. Facing an uphill battle to preserve support, automakers have rallied around one simple message: The latest Euro 6 diesels into which they have sunk billions of euros are among the cleanest, most efficient around and without them there would be no chance of curbing fleet CO2 emissions. But a cloud of suspicion has descended on the industry that has left automakers struggling to shape the public debate. More red tape, stricter testing regimens and greater scrutiny as a result of the VW Group’s fraud are only the beginning.

Low Gas Prices Create a Detour on the Road to Greater Fuel Economy

Since agreeing to tough new federal fuel economy standards five years ago, automakers have been methodically improving the gas mileage of their vehicles and reducing emissions harmful to the environment, writes the New York Times. But despite investing billions in fuel-saving technologies and introducing a raft of lower-mileage models and electric cars, the industry will be hard-pressed to meet its target of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025. Now, with a crucial midterm review of federal fuel-economy rules to begin this summer, automakers are expected to seek adjustments to the government’s formula for increasing mileage and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

From new Lethal but Legal Afterword: The World That Is Possible

This week Oxford University Press releases a new paperback edition of Lethal but Legal Corporations, Consumption and Protecting Public Health with a new Afterword by the author. An excerpt is below.

Nicholas Freudenberg

New York City, October 2034.

I wrote Lethal but Legal more than 20 years ago because I was worried about humanity’s survival. Growing epidemics of chronic diseases and injuries, escalating environmental damage, increasing concentration of corporate power and wealth, and declining democracy and government protection of health were converging towards a dangerous tipping point. After the book’s release, I had many conversations about these fears with readers, researchers, activists, health professionals and students. What struck me most was that although most agreed that the rise of the corporate consumption complex and its relentless marketing of hyperconsumption threatened public health and democracy, even those persuaded by the book’s arguments were pessimistic that another future was possible. Corporations were too powerful, they said, opposition too weak. Acquiescence was more popular than resistance and any possibility of a real alternative seemed hopelessly naïve.

Continue reading From new Lethal but Legal Afterword: The World That Is Possible

India introduces car sales tax to combat pollution

The Guardian reports that India has introduced a new tax on car sales aimed at helping fight high levels of air pollution and congestion. The surprise move, announced by the finance minister, Arun Jaitley, is a victory for campaigners and a defeat for the powerful car industry. Commentators said the move showed how attitudes to car use had changed in India. “There are some things that are politically palatable now that were not before. Jaitley has seen there is political space and public support. Once Indians owning cars was seen as a sign of economic success. Now this sort of tax is seen as Indians being responsible,” said Samir Saran, of the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.

House Takes Fairness in Class Act Litigation Act

US PIRG reports that the House is taking action on HR 1927, The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015. The bill would in effect wipe out the class action mechanism by requiring all victims to suffer the exact same injury or harm in “type and scope.” For example, if a VW “Defeat Device” reduces the value of a 2011 diesel by $2000 but a 2010 diesel by only $1000, the two owners couldn’t join the same class, even though class actions are really the only way to hold VW accountable to its customers.  As Joanne Doroshow of New York Law School’s Center for Justice and Democracy states: “Classes inherently include a range of affected individuals, and virtually never does every member of the class suffer the same scope of injury even from the same wrongdoing.  H.R. 1927 will wipe out one of the most important tools for justice in America.” Read PIRGs 70-group letter of opposition sent to the House.


EU urged to protect citizens from air pollution and fraudulent practices of car makers

Several European health and environmental groups have written to European leaders saying that in cheating on emission control, Volkswagen has “intentionally misrepresented and manipulated data for years to undercut standards which were put in place to protect our health and the environment.” They urge the European Union to “improve its capacity to protect European citizens from air pollution and the fraudulent behaviour of companies.”

Congress weighs giveaways to auto, trucking industries, snubs changes sought by safety groups

Associated Press reports that at a time of record auto recalls, safety advocates say the Republican-run Congress is snubbing their agenda and taking sides with the auto and trucking industries in favor of legislation that could worsen matters. For example, there’s no increase in the maximum fine of $35 million per violation that can be levied against automakers who don’t report safety defects and no increase in money for NHTSA to hire more staff to investigate potential safety defects and oversee automakers.