Washington ups GM bailout loss estimate to $11.2B

TRAVEL TRIP SUPER BOWL

Apparently, the cost of the US Treasury’s bailout of General Motors is still being calculated. A new report from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which oversees the TARP initiative, found that the US government has lost more money on its investment than previously believed.

The report shows that the Treasury actually lost about $11.2 billion in selling the automaker’s stock, up from the roughly $10.3 billion that was previously estimated. Auditors found that the department wrote off an “administrative claim” tied to the bailout worth $826 million, which increased the cost, according to The Detroit Free Press.

At one point, the US Treasury owned 60.8 percent of GM stock, or about 912 million shares. It slowly sold the stake over the course of years, and GM even bought some of the shares back. The government finally divested itself of all of GM in December 2013. Towards the end of the sale, the Treasury predicted it would lose about $9.7 billion on the $49.5 billion investment, but apparently that estimate has proven to be optimistic.

Chevy adds Silverado SSV to police vehicle lineup

Chevrolet Special Service Silverado Joins Police Lineup
Silverado 1500 Crew Cab is adapted for police use

DETROIT – The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Special Service Vehicle (SSV) joins the brand’s growing police vehicle portfolio. It goes on sale this summer, offering the same capabilities, efficiency and durability as the award-winning Silverado 1500, with special features designed for police use.

The SSV package is available on Silverado 1500 Crew Cab in 1WT or 1LS trims, and includes the 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8, rated at 355 horsepower and delivering the highest EPA-rated fuel economy for a 2WD V-8 full-size pickup: 23 mpg highway. The engine is available with E85 capability. Police agencies can choose 2WD or 4WD models with the standard 6’6″ pickup box or a shorter 5’8″ box.

“Last year, the Silverado 1500 was awarded for its low cost of ownership, a key purchasing factor for municipalities and government agencies,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president for GM Fleet Commercial. “The EcoTec3 engine provides the best fuel economy of any V-8 and still gives agencies the power and capability they need from a full-size pickup.”

Contented for service

The Silverado SSV is equipped with a standard 170-amp high-output alternator and 730-CCA auxiliary battery, which allows officers to operate lights, radios, computers, cameras and other equipment while parked with the engine turned off, preserving the charge of the vehicle’s primary battery. The SSV pickup also is equipped with a 110-volt outlet for equipment, and comes standard with electrical power supply for four upfitter switches located on the center stack for easy control and accessibility.

The crew cab offers a vinyl rear seat along with large rear doors for easy entry when transporting passengers. Other available interior options include front center seat delete, which provides an open center console space for police equipment, an auxiliary dome lamp and an electronic four-wheel drive switch located on the dash.

An available common key option allows municipalities to use one key to operate all of their Silverado SSVs and 2015 Tahoe police vehicles. Chevrolet will offer ship-through options for the upfit of light bars, sirens, partitions and additional aftermarket equipment.

SSV package at a glance

Standard features:

5.3L EcotTec3 V-8 engine
Auxiliary transmission oil cooler
High-capacity air cleaner
170-amp high-output alternator
730-CCA auxiliary battery
110-volt outlet
Four upfitter switches with electrical power supply
Available features:

Spotlamp – driver or driver and passenger
Wiring for grille, lamp and sirens
Flasher system for headlamps and taillamps
Common key package
Vinyl rear seats
Front center seat delete
Auxiliary dome lamp
Electronic four-wheel-drive switch
Daytime running lamps delete
Rear-vision camera
Silverado 1500: Proven capabilities and comfort

The 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8 engine is certified at 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. It combines direct fuel injection, Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and continuously variable valve timing to achieve EPA-estimated fuel economy of 23 mpg highway (2WD models). It’s the best fuel economy of any V-8 pickup on the market.

Silverado 1500 is also equipped with DuralifeTM brake rotors that offer up to double the service life, which can result in maintenance cost savings for municipalities.

“Nearly two-thirds of the Silverado SSV’s cab is made of high-strength steel, and inlaid triple-sealed doors create a strong, quiet mobile workspace to conduct daily business,” said Peper.

The pickup boxes have the same functionality of the consumer models, including a CornerStep bumper, built-in handholds and upper tie down hooks. Those features make it more convenient, while providing usable space for equipment that police agencies access daily.

The Chevrolet Silverado SSV comes with the industry’s best pickup coverage, including two-year/24,000-mile recommended maintenance, three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, Roadside Assistance and Courtesy Transportation.

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com

This BMW 2 Series ad has run afoul of Aussie ad watchdogs [w/poll]

BMW M235i

A complaint by an Australian movie-goer has put the brakes on an extended in-theater ad campaign by BMW, and drawn the attention of the country’s Advertising Standards Board. According to the anonymous complaint, the ad “portrays an unfavorable message, contrary to safe and sensible driving.”

The ASB upheld the complaint, which said the ad for the new M235i showed driving “typical of hoon activity,” thanks to the burnouts, dusty drifts and runs up to redline. It’s that last one that seems to have gotten the spot in the most trouble, with the ASB acknowledging that even though the car wasn’t shown breaking the speed limit, the ad was in violation of a voluntary code of conduct for automotive advertising, according to Australia’s Go Auto.

BMW doesn’t seem to agree, pointing out that the ad uses creative editing, aggressive camera angles and other filming tricks to “add visual impact.”

“We would also add that these creative measures are likely to have been exaggerated from the viewer’s perspective in a cinema environment with Dolby surround sound and high definition, super-size cinema screens,” BMW’s Australian outfit said, according to Go Auto.

It’s unclear what movies the ad was shown before, but as BMW points out, considering the “cinematic environment,” it suggests the case “be dismissed summarily as a frivolous complaint.”

We’d be inclined to agree with BMW, largely due to the setting. Considering some of the stuff that happens in movies today, showing a bit of sliding about and some wide-open-throttle runs is hardly the worst thing people will encounter.

Of course, we’d like to know what you think. Scroll down and have a look at the advertisement, then be sure to vote in our unofficial poll on the matter. You can then continue the debate down in Comments.

HQ move based on study, not pitch from Gov. Perry, Toyota says

Jobs Texas vs NY

Toyota’s surprising announcement on Monday that it will move its North American headquarters from Torrance, CA location to the Dallas suburb of Plano, TX is allegedly not due to any political wrangling from the state’s Republican governor, Rick Perry.

Perry (above) has been up front in his aggressive pursuit of businesses and jobs for Texas, traveling to California, Missouri, Illinois and New York to tempt corporations to his state. And it’s not just about the promise of much lower taxes, a Perry spokesman reminds Automotive News that the state boasts, “a workforce that is skilled and ready to do any job.”

For his part, Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American CEO said Plano was chosen through an internal process, with the location helped by its proximity to the company’s massive pickup factory in San Antonio rather than any campaigning from the governor.

Lentz explained the selection process that led to Toyota choosing the Lone Star State as its new headquarters to Automotive News: “When we made the decision that we weren’t going to go to one of our three existing locations, our search started with about 100 different cities. We put together a decision matrix that put together economic considerations, business considerations, associate considerations,” Lentz says. That left the company with 100 cities, which were pared down to 25, then down to seven, which were then split between four “primary locations” and three “secondary locations.” Lentz wouldn’t elaborate on what other cities were competing with Plano. “We visited all four of those primary locations and it became quite clear that [Dallas] was the primary choice,” Lentz told Automotive News.

As The Wall Street Journal points out, however, Toyota is clearly getting a sweet deal to make the move south, including hefty state incentives out of the Texas Enterprise Fund to the tune of $40 million dollars – an estimated $10,000 per job. The WSJ notes that the latter figure is “one of the largest incentives handed out in the decade-old program and cost more per job than any other large award.”

UAW calls on US State Department to help with Nissan plant

Nissan Anniversary

The United Auto Workers is calling for reinforcements in its ongoing battle with Nissan at the manufacturer’s Canton, MS factory, where the Altima, Armada, Titan and NV (and eventually, the next Murano) are built. The union has been attempting to organize the employees at the factory for several years, but it’s been largely unsuccessful.

Now, Reuters is reporting that the UAW is teaming with the IndustriALL Global Union and requesting intervention by the US State Department, with both groups accusing Nissan of using “threats, intimidation and fear” to keep the 5,600 workers at the facility from organizing. The two unions say this violates the guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization dedicated to stimulating economic growth.

The UAW and IndustriALL are asking the State Department’s National Contact Point to serve as mediator with Nissan, to make sure things play out fairly. Speaking to Reuters, though, there’s at least one Michigan-based labor adviser that’s skeptical of the move.

“I’ve never heard of this happening before,” Arthur Schwartz told Reuters, referring to the State Department mediating a labor dispute. The move to invoke the OECD guidelines was also a surprise, with Schwartz saying he’d never heard of the organization having any “teeth.”

Nissan, for its part, seemed to deny the UAW’s allegations, say that it leaves union membership up to its employees. It didn’t stop there, though, accusing the UAW of violating the very guidelines it’s accusing the Nissan of breaking.

“It would be premature to comment on mediation given that the State Department has not yet evaluated the submission and the UAW already has compromised confidentiality provisions of the OECD guidelines,” spokesman Justin Saia told Reuters.

Former Porsche boss Wiedeking won’t face criminal charges over VW bid

DEU Porsche VW Aufsichtsrat Wiedeking Haerter

Hedge fund managers have been suing Porsche for years now, alleging that the car company lied about its intentions during its failed attempt to take over Volkswagen, a gambit that caused them billion in losses. Over the same period, authorities in Stuttgart built a criminal case against former CEO Wendelin Wiedeking (above, left) and Chief Financial Officer Holger Härter (right), filing charges in December 2012. When those fund plaintiffs lost their most recent court case, one of the dimming lights in the dark and receding tunnel was that the criminal investigation might unearth more evidence about Porsche’s actions that could help the plaintiffs in pending litigation.

Bloomberg reports that another light has gone out, though, with a Stuttgart court dismissing the market manipulation case before going to trial because, as a court spokesperson said, “there wasn’t enough evidence backing up the charges.” When prosecutors get the files back from the court, they have a week to decide to refile, but unless they’ve been sandbagging evidence that could bolster the case, the only lights at the end of the tunnel will be those welcoming Wiedeking and Härter back to the world of legally unencumbered men.

VW using other manufacturing locations as leverage in battle with TN [w/video]

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

We’ve reached a new step in the ongoing drama at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, TN. The United Auto Workers recently dropped its opposition to the union vote and agreed that it wouldn’t hold another ballot for at least a year. Now, the new question becomes where VW is going to build its forthcoming midsize SUV.

Earlier, it had been considered all but certain that the SUV, likely a production version of the CrossBlue concept (pictured above), would be built in Tennessee. However, it seems the Chattanooga factory might have competition to produce it. In emails obtained by The Detroit News, VW’s lawyer wrote to the Tennessee economic development department in January saying, “While we understand there are some ‘non-deal’ issues that are causing a delay in the TN solution, VW has been successful in reaching agreement on terms at the alternative locations.”

As previously reported, the state of Tennessee allegedly offered VW about $300 million in incentives to build the vehicle there and create an estimated 1,350 jobs, but it later rescinded the deal. Newly leaked documents from NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) in Nashville allegedly show just how close that offer was to being completed. It appears that VW actually sent the government the first draft of a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the incentives, but the state removed the offer in late January.

Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn announced at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show that the midsize SUV was scheduled for its US launch in 2016, as a model designed specifically for North America. He also said the company would invest over $7 billion over the next five years. Time might be running out to find a production location. If not in Tennessee, the alternative would appear to be VW’s assembly in Mexico.

Autoblog reached out to the Chattanooga factory and was given no comment. Scroll down to watch WTVF-TV‘s latest report on the newly leaked documents that it has.

Related GalleryVolkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept: Detroit 2013

Top Gear producer expresses regret over ‘light-hearted’ racist joke

The Military Awards London

Generally, when you’re globally known like the team at Top Gear and are getting sued for $1.66 million over claims of racism, it’s in your best interest to apologize early, often and profusely. You should not, however, apologize a month after the fact, when the furor had already died down. Someone, apparently, didn’t teach this lesson to TG Executive Producer Andy Wilman, who has ruffled feathers with an oddly worded apology for the incident, nearly a month after it happened.

“We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive,” Wilman said. Claiming ignorance strikes us as a reasonable defense – most of the Autoblog team and many of the readers that commented on our original story had never heard that particular slur. He then eviscerates his defense by saying this:

“When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.”

Claiming ignorance that a term is racist and then admitting that you were using said term to refer to someone of a different race kind of indicates that you knew what you were up to.

Wilman then bewilderingly goes on to claim that the phrase isn’t well known in the United Kingdom, and that the furor seems to be coming from the United States and Australia. This ignores the fact that a Indian-born British actress and a British law firm are the ones suing Top Gear.

All told, this seems like a pretty bad play on the part of Wilman and the TG team.

‘Pothole Killer’ faster than a four-man road crew

Pothole Killer

Residents of Florida, the American Southwest and everywhere else where snowfall is greeted with the sort of panic normally reserved for extraterrestrial invasions or the discontinuation of Twinkies, look away. This doesn’t concern you.

If you live in a land that’s been gripped by the Polar Vortex, has experienced immense, record-breaking amounts of snowfall and has the roads to prove it, though, look on this wonderful machine with joy. It’s called the Pothole Killer, and it’s here to put the traditional patching crew out of business.

It can repair a pothole in two minutes. That’s 120 seconds. It gets better, though, because only one person is needed for the job. Compare that with the amount of time it takes a four-man crew to make a typically dodgy repair job, and the Pothole Killer is a big improvement. It’s not perfect, though, as shown in a report from Detroit’s ABC affiliate.

The mixture used to patch the holes is 35 percent water, which limits the machine’s use in cold weather. And as shown in the news report, even though it’s plenty quick to make repairs, a few brutal winters are all that are needed to destroy roads all over again. That said, the speed of repairs and the reduction in man power do have their advantages.

What about the cost, though? Well, the machine itself is $335,800, according to Gizmodo. Municipalities can rent it for three months for $130,000, or about $43,300 per month, which, believe it or not, is more affordable than running a four-man crew, which includes labor costs, fuel for the trucks and asphalt (not to mention the slower, less reliable repairs). Monroe County, MI, where this video was shot, has already spent over $100,000 this spring, when repair season generally runs well into the summer. It’s not the best solution to the pothole problem, but it seems better than what’s been done in the past.

Take a look below to see it in action.