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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

USA: class action for disappointed Shelby Mustang owners

Consumer law firm Hagens Berman is putting together a class action for disappointed customers for Ford's Shelby GT350 Mustang (2016 model), which far from being the exciting track car that Ford advertised is said to suffer from overheating problems. Sustained high-speed driving (which is what a track car is supposed to be for) is more than the transmission and diff can cope with, and the car goes into "limp mode" to prevent damage. Limping is, I guess, the antithesis of what you buy a track car for.

The problem can also arise when the cars are driven on the road. It stems, the law firm contends, from the absence of coolers for those parts of the drive train. Base and Tech models are affected.

Hagens Berman's page about the claim is here.

Friday, 10 March 2017

USA: VW plead guilty to emissions offences

Law 360 reports that VW has pleaded guilty in a federal court in Michigan to three criminal charges arising from Dieselgate, and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. The charges were counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act.

Hybrid patent wars

In the US, Ford is under investigation by the International Trade Commission following a patent infringement complaint by Paice LLC (the name an acronym for Power-Assisted Internal Combustion Engines), a hydrid technology company based in Maryland which owns what are rated as four of the most influential hybrid technology patents, and the Abell Foundation, a charity that supports progressive start-up businesses and which co-owns the patents. They allege that the vehicle manyfacturer is importing hybrid electric vehicles and components that infringe their patents. Section 337 of the Tariff Act 1930 prohibits the import of infringing products, and is often used by patentees as an alternative to litigation - although Paice have been down that road too a couple of years ago, and their claims were thrown out.
The investigation could result in Ford being prevented from shipping Mexico-made cars into the USA. As if making cars in Mexico was not already controversial enough!
Paice worked with Ford between 1999 and 2004, providing (according to Automotive News) "detailed modeling and component design" - which seems to fall rather a long way short of creating anything for which a patent might be granted. Perhaps the argument is that Paice's work had its own patented technology embedded in it: in any event, Ford eventually decided not to take a licence to use Paice's technology - and instead struck a deal with Toyota to use its technology. Paice has also been embroiled in litigation with Toyota, which it claims received its technology from Ford, and in 2010 Ford reached a settlement with Paice over that technology. Hyundai and Kia are also accused of infringements by Paice. Ford has also filed 25 legal challenges to Paice patents in the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Hybrid vehicle technology is going the same way as mobile phones - soon the companies involved will be spending more time suing each other for patent infringements than making cars.
Griffith Hack report
Automotive News
Paice press statement

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Garel Rhys

I am very sorry to learn of the death, on 21 February, of Garel Rhys, who among other distinctions held the SMMT chair in motor industry economics at Cardiff University. He was superbly well-informed on all matters to do with the industry, and had a gift of being able to present his knowledge in a highly entertaining fashion - no danger of his audiences ever becoming bored. He spoke at least once for Motor Law, at our seminar on the block exemption back in oh, about 1995, when these things were worth talking about. He was worth every penny, and he will be missed by a lot of people in the industry.

Change to advisory fuel rate

HMRC published new rates for the next quarter in the week of 20th February, then made a further change on 27th February. The new rates come into force on 1st March and initially gave the rate for petrol engine vehicles above 2000cc at 20p per mile (down one penny).  The rate for LPG vehicles above 2000cc has increased by a penny a mile from 13p to 14p. Now, the figures show that the petrol rate has increased by one penny per mile rather than fallen as originally announced. The new rate will be 22 per mile.

Takata agree to settle PL claims

Takata, the Japanese airbag supplier facing big public liability claims in the US, has agreed a settlement said to be worth 1 billion dollars. The judge preferred to strike the deal rather than risk putting the company into bankruptcy.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Repair data investigation

The Information Commissioner's Office has been called in by crash repair chain NARS to investigate illegal access to personal data, including estimates for car repairs. The ICO is concerned that personal information was traded unlawfully, and that nuisance phone calls might have been the result.
The ICO's experience is that unscrupulous people access data about car accidents to sell on to marketing firms, according to Mike Shaw, enforcement manager, quoted in Motor Trader.
The ICO has carried out a search at a property in east London as part of the investigation. Motor Trader reports that the person of interest is not a current employee of NARS.
While it is not illegal to sell data such as lists of prospective customers, the data must have been obtained lawfully in the first place and the person selling it on must have the right to do so. The Data Protection Act 1998 contains detailed provisions to protect individuals' personal data, and section 55 makes it an offence to obtain or access personal data unlawfully.
(Motor Trader report 22 February 2017