Sonari Glinton | KERA News

Sonari Glinton

Martin Winterkorn, the former head of Volkswagen, was indicted on Thursday along with five other former VW executives on charges of conspiracy and fraud in connection with a years-long scheme by the automaker to cheat on auto emissions tests.

Winterkorn, who led VW from 2007 to 2015, is the highest profile figure charged in the scandal that forced him to resign.

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Volkswagen is trying yet again to turn the page after its emissions cheating scandal — leaving diesel behind in favor of electric cars.

The major shift comes as the German automaker — the world's largest in term of cars sold — has a new leader in Herbert Diess.

For decades, China has been one of the most difficult places to sell a car, and one of the most lucrative.

Nearly 29 million vehicles were sold in China in 2017, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That's 11 million more than what sold in the U.S. last year, according to Wards, an auto data tracking firm.

This week, Chinese officials announced they're planning to relax some rules specifically for electric cars.

Here are some of the barriers that makes selling a car in China problematic.

1. The 50/50 rule

China's car market is the world's largest, and one of the most lucrative, so it's no surprise that it has become a flashpoint in the simmering trade battle between the United States and China.

Last year was yet another good one for the U.S. auto industry. Overall, 17.2 million vehicles were sold in 2017 — one of its five all-time best years — and profits were high.

Automakers aren't rejoicing — sales declined about 2 percent after reaching a record in 2016. And, despite a good economy, analysts predict another drop this year.

"I can tell you (we're) coming off a plateau in the last couple of years for sure," says Mark Scarpelli, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Automakers are watching closely as the Trump administration tries to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the latest round of talks is under way in Mexico City this week.

NAFTA touches almost every business sector — few more than the car industry. Automakers say that changing the agreement could boost their costs and make them less competitive.

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As car companies make strides toward expanding the reach of electric cars in the U.S., the same is happening in the world of two wheels.

Outside the U.S., motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are vital, affordable forms of transportation that alleviate congestion. They also run on fossil fuels, and many of the smaller motors are more polluting than regular cars.

California has the toughest air quality regulations of any state in the country. But they're not tough enough to satisfy a new state law that requires California to double the rate at which it cuts greenhouse gases.

So this month, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan it says is aimed at "decarbonizing" the state's economy.

You can see how different Tesla is from the rest of the car companies at a place like the LA Auto Show. At the Tesla booth, there's no glitz, or models leaning seductively. But it's swamped during a showing for journalists.

One of three Tesla car models on display at the show is the Model 3, aimed at the mass market. It's not only the car that's supposed to take Tesla mainstream but also the one to bring it to profitability.

But CEO Elon Musk's company has missed its production goals, and analysts wonder whether he's spreading himself too thin.

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What happens when you're faced with a workforce that seems unwelcoming or even hostile? For people like Dennis Jackson, often the answer is to become your own boss.

In Los Angeles, he is making the best of an October heat wave by selling solar panels. Jackson says he has essentially always been an entrepreneur. He started in landscaping and moved toward solar panel installation.

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In this week's All Tech Considered, we look at technology in cars.

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Tesla gets more than its fair share of media hype, but it appears to be stumbling in the spotlight.

Citing "production bottlenecks," Tesla reported this week that it delivered only 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 in September. That's far below some pretty ambitious goals set out by its CEO, Elon Musk.

With more than 1 million autos damaged in recent U.S. hurricanes, car rental firms have had to move vehicles quickly into affected areas. The ability to manage large fleets involves artificial intelligence and data — tools that are keys to a future of self-driving fleets.

Often even before the first rain falls in a hurricane, rental cars are on the way.

Ever since its fabled role in World War II, Jeep has been an American icon. And now the famous U.S. brand may be sold to a Chinese company.

Jeep was primarily made for the United Sates military, starting in 1941. It was used to transport troops during World War II, and that's when the rugged-looking vehicle captured the imagination of people worldwide.

The Trump administration has begun the process of rolling back tough fuel standards for America's car and light truck fleet.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department have opened the public comment period on the rewriting of standards for greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025.

While more than 500,000 people have put down a deposit for the privilege of owning Tesla's new Model 3, according to the company, 30 employees were the lucky few to receive their vehicles first.

Friday is a big day for Tesla. The automaker's very first Model 3 will roll off the assembly line, the culmination of years of planning, engineering and hype.

Elon Musk, the company's co-founder and chief executive, has been promising an affordable long-range electric car meant for the masses. He first wrote about the dream vehicle in the company's not-so-secret Secret Plan in 2006.

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Ford Motor Company's new CEO, Jim Hackett has a pretty daunting job description: prepare Ford for a future of self-driving cars and keep things profitable by selling trucks. While Hackett has a unique set of skills, that's still an extremely tall order.

Ford Motor Company is different than the other car companies.

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There are a lot of threads to the story of Ford Motor Company over the last several years. It avoided bankruptcy during the financial collapse. In the last few years, the company has enjoyed record sales and, with that, record profits.

After seven years of growth, the auto market is seeing weakness.

In April, sales were off by 4.7 percent. That's despite the continued robust sales of highly profitable SUVs and trucks. That's no big deal for an industry that just got off of two record seasons, but not so for investors.

The pain is being felt across the auto world.

Most car buyers don't do more than the most perfunctory test drive of new or used cars. But with so much new technology and features in today's cars and trucks, a thorough test drive is more important than ever.

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If you make, sell or drive a car, today President Trump has news for you.

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