It's going to be a while before we've figured out our brave new marijuana-approved world. The next lesson comes courtesy of the Michigan Supreme Court, which has reportedly ruled that it isn't necessarily against the law for a medical marijuana user to drive with the drug in their system. The ruling comes after motorist Rodney Koon was busted for doing 83 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone and tested positive for "internal possession of marijuana."
Koon said it had been at least six hours since he "used his medicine," and the blood test registered 10 nanograms per milliliter of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC. The 86th District Court in Grand Traverse County, MI - the county where Koon was caught - ruled that it took five times that amount to declare a person stoned.
But that was the ruling of a single court. The problem for the Michigan Supreme Court justices was that the state of Michigan hasn't explicitly identified the threshold for being under the influence marijuana, the same way it usually takes a blood-alcohol level of at least .08 to be considered under the influence of alcohol, and charged with driving while intoxicated. The vagaries pitted the state's Zero Tolerance policy against the protections accorded by Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act, and the Zero Tolerance policy lost. We imagine there'll be a rematch - yet another one - soon enough.Permalink | Email this | Comments
With arch rival Ford of Australia having announced earlier this week that it will cease all in-continent manufacturing in 2016, you might think that General Motors' Holden division might be feeling a bit more confident about its future prospects. Yet that doesn't necessarily appear to be the case. At least for the moment, Ford's headline-grabbing announcement may take some of the wind out of the sails of Holden's new VF Commodore lineup (SS model pictured above), a critical new range launching right now. Further, the same high assembly costs that are being blamed for Ford shuttering its plants Down Under also affect Holden, and then there's the as-yet-unknown effect of the Blue Oval's pullout on Australia's supplier base, much of which the two companies share.
According to an official statement attributed to Holden chairman Mike Devereux, the automaker is holding hands on both sides of the country's political aisle as he works to secure government goodwill and understanding for the auto industry's challenges. For the moment, Holden's commitment to Australian production appears stronger than Ford. Devereux notes the company has already vetted a 10-year production plan with the Australian government, and the billion-dollar investment that it requires will result in a pair of new global vehicles. Needless to say, Holden executives have a lot to figure out if they're going to continue to a viable enterprise in Down Under, and Ford's departure may add a sense of urgency to those discussions. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Nissan scored a big win for itself when the NV200 was named New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow, but the compact van has been under attack ever since. The latest setback for Nissan comes from the New York Supreme Court, which has reportedly ruled the deal between NYC and Nissan is "null, void and unenforceable" since the NV200 is not a hybrid - one of the key parts of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Taxi of Tomorrow plan.
The NV200 Taxi launches this October. Although Nissan says it is bringing a hybrid version of the van to market in 2015, the New York Supreme Court ruled against Nissan, which opens the door for taxi companies in NYC to drive non-Nissan hybrid vehicles. Despite this setback, it doesn't sound like this ruling will affect the NV200 becoming the official taxi of NYC as a part of the 10-year contract worth an estimated $1 billion.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Filed under: Government/Legal
The three-year investigation by the US Department of Justice into price-fixing allegations by auto parts suppliers continues, with two more fish from the swamp of corruption the latest to be sentenced. Reuters reports that Denso executives Yuji Suzuki and Hiroshi Watanabe will do 16 months and 15 months in US jails, respectively, for their roles in setting prices for parts like heater control units and power window systems. They will also each pay $20,000 fines.
Fourteen executives and nine companies - so far - have been speared by the investigation. Eight of the companies have settled, Denso paying a $78-million fine in February last year at the same time as the DoJ collected $478 million from supplier Yazaki, $200 million from Furukawa Electric Company and sent three Furukawa execs to prison.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Former Saab Chairman Victor Muller may be called in for questioning as part of an official inquiry into suspected tax evasion by three of the automaker's former executives. A prosecutor has officially named former CEO Jan-Ake Jonsson and two other executives in the investigation, and official court documents say that Muller will be called in by the Financial Crimes Unit. According to Reuters, prosecutors are currently looking into allegations that the executives worked to dodge taxes between 2010 and 2011, when the automaker finally went into bankruptcy.
The Truth About Cars reports the investigation may center around the $540,000 paid as consulting fees to Latin America Tug Holding NV, a company Muller owns. It's possible that the Swedish authorities believe the Saab executives were using the tug boat company as a tax haven, and that the automaker should have paid taxes and social security contributions on the money. Muller has not been charged.
Meanwhile, Muller is defending his earnings in a new interview with Automotive News. Having come under fire for his $773,000 salary at Saab, the Spyker CEO said his pay was commensurate with an executive running a company with 4,000 employees.Permalink | Email this | Comments
In the same week that Audi said "not so fast" to some claims from Tesla, Chrysler has responded to a new press release from the California-based EV-maker by saying "not exactly, Tesla." The statement, released through the company's blog, comes in response to Tesla claiming it was "the only American car company to have fully repaid the government." Chrysler notes that it, too, recently paid back Uncle Sam from its 2008 bailout. Similar to Audi's recent press release, which was eventually and mysteriously deleted from the German automaker's site, Chrysler is both right and wrong in its statement.
Tesla specifically said that it had paid back the Department of Energy loans that many automakers received - including Fisker and VPG Autos - while Chrysler's retort argues Tesla is "unmistakably incorrect" since it repaid the government in 2011 a full six years early. Technically, the statements from both automakers are correct, but Tesla's startup loan originated from the DoE, while Chrysler's loan came in bailout form from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Further, as The Detroit News notes, Chrysler's loan still cost taxpayers well over a billion dollars after all was said and done - those negative assets tied to "old Chrysler" in the bankruptcy did not require repayment.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The Detroit News reports automakers are coming out in support of proposed free trade legislation between the US and the European Union. The Association of Global Automakers, representing major Asian manufacturers, says the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will promote economic growth, increase jobs and make US and EU companies more competitive on the global market. The legislation will also open the door for EU and US regulators to agree on one standard for emissions, crash protection, child restraints, fuel systems and tire pressure monitors. If that happens, automakers could save millions of dollars by being able to build and sell one car for both markets.
Jaguar-Land Rover North America also stands behind that move, but would also like to see the US completely eliminate its current 2.5 percent tax on imported cars. The company isn't alone. Ferrari has also spoken up in favor of eliminating the tariff, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, comprised of Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Toyota and Daimler among others, also supports harmonizing regulations between both markets.
All told, the EU and the US make up 32 percent of global vehicle production and 35 percent of the total buyer market. The Detroit News reports the US exported some $8 billion in cars to Europe last year and another $5 billion in parts.Permalink | Email this | Comments