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Monday, 22 August 2016

Texas: judge rejects GM ignition-switch claim

From Reuters comes the news that a judge in Texas has thrown out the second of 20 test cases involving the ignition-switch problem that, pre-Dieselgate, was probably the biggest product liability story in the automotive world, closely followed I suppose by the Takata airbags saga. It seems that the plaintiff in the rejected claim hadn't done much to show a chain of causation: the fault with the ignition switch was known, but there was nothing to show that it had pitched her car into the central barrier. Res ipsa loquitur? Apparently not.

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VW plaintiffs' lawyers to seek up to $332.5 million in fees, costs from emissions settlement

VW plaintiffs' lawyers are to seek up to $332.5 million in fees and costs from any forthcoming emissions settlement, according to Automotive News (11 August). That's in addition to the $10bn settlement figure. Unsurprisingly there is as yet no agreement between the plaintiffs and the manufacturer, papers only just having been filed with the court in California. VW has agreed to pay reasonable fees and costs - but that leaves a lot of room for argument.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Used Vauxhall Zafira B sales 'may have been illegal if repairs not carried out'

Car Dealer Magazine reports that used Vauxhall Zafiras appear to have been sold without repairs having been carried out. The model is currently undergoing its second recall, the magazine reports. The problem was revealed on the radio consumer programme, You and Yours, and Car Dealer asserts that it may be illegal to sell the car without attending to the repairs. The DVSA states in official guidance that dealers have to check for outstanding recalls and attend to repairs before selling the car, whether to a consumer or in the trade. It doesn't cite chapter and verse, but it is clear that a car that had not been fixed could be unroadworthy as well as being not of satisfactory quality. Criminal and civil laws could be engaged.

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Korea Widens Emission Test Probe to All Foreign Car Brands - Bloomberg

Having fined VW, the South Korean authorities have widened their investigations into fabricated emissions and noise-reduction test results to cover all imported marques - which account for some 15 per cent of its market.

Bloomberg has the story.

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VW Diesel Scandal Threatens to Ensnare German Supplier Bosch - Bloomberg

Lawyers in the US acting for VW owners allege that Bosch played an active part in a "decades-long conspiracy" involving defeating emissions controls. The software which accomplished this was provided by Bosch. The company is already a defendant in litigation which is in progress in San Francisco. This piece is based on a report by Bloomberg. There is also a report on the Reuters website.

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Who's responsible when an autonomous car crashes?

Tesla owner in Autopilot crash won't sue, but car insurer might, reports Automotive News. The car drove into a barrier on a stretch of road in rural Texas which the owner had often let the car navigate before. He suffered nothing more than a bloody nose, thank goodness, but has the distinction of being one of the first people to cause the question of liablity to be posed.

Tesla market their Autopilot function as an "assist feature", saying that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel and be prepared to take over control - although one might criticise the choice of trade name, which might give a rather different impression. In fact, today (22 August) The Guardian reports that Tesla has changed the name under which it markets the stuff in China, from something that loosely translates as "self-driving" to something like "driver assist". This follows an accident in China where the non-driver said he'd relied on Tesla calling the system “zidong jiashi” (自动驾驶, I think), which can be translated as "self-driving" but which can also be translated as "autopilot", which (being the word they use in English) is presumably what they intended. It certainly demonstrates the problems that translations can create, and there are commentators on the Internet saying that the Chinese crash was the result of a bad translation. Apparently Tesla's Chinese website uses the English word Autopilot but now also has the words "zidong fuzhu jiashi" (Autopilot 自动辅助驾驶) which translates as "automatic assist driving", or "automatic auxiliary drive (according to Yandex Translate) - I guess the 辅助 ("fuzhu") makes all the difference.

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VW gains approval for more emissions fixes

According to Reuters, VW has received approval from the KBA to modify 140,000 2-litre cars to overcome the problems with the emissions control systems. That makes about 5.2 million cars in Europe (out of 11 million worldwide) for which fixes have been agreed, apparently leaving some 2.3 million in Europe to deal with.

KBA, Germany's vehicle testing authority, determines how the matter is treated throughout the EU. Should something like this happen again in a few years time, it will be fun to watch how the UK manages to go it alone.