Volkswagen Engineer Pleads Guilty for Involvement in Dieselgate

A VW engineer pleaded guilty today in a federal court in Detroit for his involvement with the automaker’s diesel emissions cheat device. This makes him the first person to face any criminal charges in connection with the emissions scandal.

According to Bloomberg, Volkswagen engineer James Liang is being charged with “conspiracy to commit fraud against U.S. regulators and customers and to violate the Clean Air Act.” He will be sentenced in January, and he could face up to five years in prison. Bloomberg‘s report states that Liang’s guilty plea comes after a year-long investigation by the Justice Department, which has faced tremendous pressure to hold more individuals accountable in high-profile cases, such as this diesel emissions cheating scandal, which has been dubbed “Dieselgate” by the automotive community.

James Liang is a long-time VW employee who reportedly worked on the team that developed the diesel cheat device for the VW Jetta back in 2006. He is also accused of assisting Volkswagen in its attempt to deceive U.S. regulators during their investigation into how the cheat devices worked.

Liang told the judge, “I know VW did not disclose the defeat device to U.S. regulators in order to sell the cars in the U.S. That’s what makes me guilty.”

His plea comes after VW has agreed to pay at least $16.5 billion to settle a whole host of claims. They also face ongoing investigations in Europe where the European Commission is encouraging consumer groups to take legal action against VW.

Here’s my opinion on what’s going on so far:

In addition to fines, if VW executives are to be paid for the responsibility of overseeing the manufacturing and sales of products, then they should be held fully responsible for such gross negligence. They have already been caught not telling the truth numerous times. James Liang is just a scapegoat for VW executives, who use a lot of money, power, and influence to get off squeaky clean.

This scandal comes amid the Takata airbags scandal and the GM ignition switch scandal, among other things. How many people have died from those? Far too many. Millions of people a year die from respiratory ailments, while millions more are diagnosed with asthma. How many asthma attacks have been triggered by Volkswagen’s emissions cheat device?

Liang is essentially saying “I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” The judge and attorneys were soon seen peeling out in a green van marked “Mystery Machine.”

In my eyes, it should be former VW chairman, Martin Winterkorn, who should be dragged off to prison. James Liang was following orders given to him by greedy pricks on the other side of the Atlantic. He was ultimately the one who gave the emissions cheating project a green light, but he’s got enough money and influence in the European Commission to stay out of court. Winterkorn must surrender his golden parachute and his gigantic pension, and serve the rest of his life in a federal prison for the crimes he and Volkswagen committed against governments and consumers.

I’m wondering how much VW is going to pay Liang’s family in exchange for his agreeing to fall on the sword for the emperor. It certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

It seems that VW was on top of the world, and now their empire is going to slowly come crashing down on their heads. It was a wicked and wild wind (filled with the emissions their cars spewed out) that opened the doors that has brought down the end of an era. It’s only a matter of time before VW is forced to sell off their many assets – they own Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, and other automakers. They’re a true giant in the world’s automotive market, but it’s only a matter of time before they’re a shell of what they once were.

The Evolution of Crazy

Pro Street is a popular form of hot rodding nowadays.  It’s also incredibly easy to define, unlike rat rods or Pro Touring.  Pro Street is classic cars with the rear wheeltubs dramatically enlarged for insanely wide tires.  However, defining Pro Street gets a bit more difficult from there.  Is it a fairgrounds car with big dirt tires?  A street-optimized race car? A race-optimized street car?  Or is it a full-on race car?  It can be any and all of those.  Pro Street has evolved throughout the years from essentially fairgrounds cars to street-optimized race cars.  I’ve taken the pleasure of outlining important years and cars in the evolution of Pro Street.  While your idea of Pro Street might differ, or not be there, I hope this helps.

1972: Grumpy Jenkins Pro Stock Vega:  Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins essentially ushered in Pro Street with the advent of his groundbreaking NHRA Pro Stock tube-chassis Chevy Vega in 1972.  Nobody had ever seen massive tires tucked under a production body before. Yes, the extreme Funny Cars had been using the look for a few years prior, but they had fiberglass body shells, so let’s not count those.  Grumpy went all-out groundbreaking by using a completely tubular frame, which allowed him to run those massive 14-inch-wide and 32-inch-tall drag slicks previously reserved for Top Fuel.  Every single Pro Stock car borrows heavily from that groundbreaking Vega in 1972.

Grumpy Jenkins Chevy Vega

1979: Scott Sullivan’s 1967 Chevy Nova:  No, this beautiful 1967 Chevy Nova was not the first Pro Street car.  Not by a long shot.  However, it was the first car to get massive attention past a small magazine feature on it.  It thundered onto the scene in 1979, just a year after the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals were launched to tire-burning success.  It created the perfect test-and-tune environment for Pro Street.  Sullivan has been known for setting hot rodding trends with just about every car that he builds.  His 1967 Nova was no exception.  It may not have been as innovative as his other cars, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful, thanks to it’s highlight stripe and color-matched bumpers.  It even had the perfect stance.  Sullivan sold the car in 1984 to Pro Mod racer Ron Iannotti.

Scott Sullivan 1967 Chey Nova

1980: Some Tubbed Street Machines: Many street rod builders of the late 1970s became brainwashed by Scott Sullivan’s beautiful 1967 Chevy Nova (see above), and completely redid their cars.  Just about every car from this era had the back half of their chassis tubbed, and many builders simply moved the leaf springs far inside the chassis to fit the massive drag slicks.  Seeing a car with a Roots blower sticking out of the hood was a must well into the 1990s.

Pro Street Pontiac GTO

1985: Fully Tubbed Street Rods: The cover of the July 1985 ‘Hot Rod’ magazine announced the “Fat Attack” of fully tubbed street rods.  One of the cars on the cover was “Fat Jack” Robinson’s 1946 Ford coupe, painted in a vivid Coast Guard orange.  The car was tubbed like a true Pro Street car, but it was intended to thunder down the drag strips of America.  His car was the result of the first round of the nostalgia drag racing scene of the time.  His car inspired several other pre-1948 fully-tubbed cars.  Those cars on the cover of ‘Hot Rod’ showed how the Pro Street look merging into the vast world of street rods.  It wasn’t long before you’d look around at a hot rod show and see a bunch of 1940s Ford coupes sporting massive rubber.  Unfortunately for Fat Jack Robinson, his car ended up being totaled in a crash at Fremont Drag Strip.

Fat Jack Robinson 1946 Ford Coupe

1992: Trailer/Fairgrounds Queens: Dick Dobbertin’s nutso Pontiac J2000 Pro Street car arrived on the scene in 1986.  You’re probably wondering why I said 1992.  That’s because the trend of taking a lowly late-model FWD car being converted to a fully-tubbed, RWD car started then.  It made it OK to build an over-the-top Pro Street car that only looked good, which have now been dubbed Pro Fairgrounds.  Why Pro Fairgrounds?  The show venue was the only place where these cars could really shine.  I mean, who would really want to drive a car with more than 1,000 horsepower and a short wheelbase down a dragstrip?  If you want that kind of crazy, buy a vintage Fuel Altered car.  This radical Pontiac J2000 started the Dare to be Different movement in the automotive world, by starting battles to see who was able to build a bonkers Pro Fairgrounds car that nobody else had built yet.  Soon thereafter, builders came to their senses and started the Dare to be the Same movement, which leads us to our next section.

Dick Dobbertin Pontiac J2000

1992: C.A.R.S. Camaro: Many of the builders of Pro Fairgrounds resented building cars they couldn’t drive.  They wanted truly functional rides, not simple street rods with a big block, but cars that had gigantic rubber, big wheelies, and low drag strip times.  Detroit and Ohio even started a large movement to build cars that were all-steel-bodied, fully tubbed, go eight seconds in the quarter mile, dress them up with bumpers and various trim pieces, cruise them up and down the iconic Woodward Avenue in Detroit with license plates, and then race them head-to-head all weekend.  One of the first cars featured in magazines was the C.A.R.S. Inc.-sponsored Chevy Camaro of Rick Dyer and Danny Scott.  That iconic Camaro served as the main inspiration for the ‘Hot Rod’ 1992 Fastest Street Car Shootout.

Rick Dyer Chevy Camaro

1993: Mark Tate’s Chevy Camaro: That little Fastest Street Car Shootout gained so much popularity so quickly that it couldn’t sustain itself.  The heavyweight champs, the Pro Street cars, were losing to flat-out Pro Stock-chassis cars.  Those Pro Stock chassis cars were never meant to be driven on the street, unlike the Pro Street cars.  Mark Tate joined the fray in 1993 with his stock-bodied Pro Stock-chassis 1967 Chevy Camaro.  Then it was Tony Christian’s 1957 Chevy 210.  After Christian, it was Bob Reiger and his radical Pro Stock Chevy S-10.  Appeal for Pro Stock/Pro Street cars started to wane.  These weren’t cars you could build in the garage for $10,000 anymore.  These were cars racking up bills well over $100,000.  People wanted fast cars that they could drive on the street for not much money.

Mark Tate 1967 Chevy Camaro

2011: “Modern Pro Street:” This is a total niche created in the Pro Street world by those wanting a fast car with all of the modern mechanicals.  Cars of this look have a Pro Fairgrounds look, street machine behavior, and sometimes a late-model body.  These cars usually have the newest engines, turbos, EFI, and the wheels are usually gigantic with incredible tread.  The beautiful Mustang shown here is the 2007 Ford Mustang from Fastlane Motorsports.  It has a 2010 5.4-liter V-8 with an old-school Weiand 6-71 blower showing out of the hood.

Fastlane Motorsports 2007 Mustang

2012:  Larry Larson’s Chevy Nova: This is where Pro Street is now.  Larry Larson owns a stunning 1966 Chevrolet Nova that has truly incredible performance.  He’s run 6.90 seconds at well over 200 mph in the quarter mile after driving 80 mph on the highway all day.  How does he do it?  Modern technology.  He’s got a bored and stroked Chevy big-block motor with twin turbochargers, EFI, and lots of other amazing technology.  He’s able to drive it all day to a drag strip, run incredible times, turn around and go home without killing his car.  He’s had a LOT of experience in the drag racing world, so he only uses the best parts.  If Grumpy Jenkins were alive today, his mind would be absolutely blown.  Mine is.

Larry Larson 1966 Chevy Nova

That’s where Pro Street is, and where it’s come from.  These cars have state-of-the-art technology, and they are actually quite streetable cars.

The 12 Stunning Detroit International Auto Show Debuts!

The Detroit International Auto Show always has a lot of cool new debuts.  As one might expect, a LOT of new American metal debuts there.  But, foreign cars are also starting to be debuted at Detroit more and more.  Enjoy my top 12 debuts

  1. 2015 Ford F150:  With the majority of the 2015 Ford F150 made out of aluminum, the 2015 Ford F150 lost almost 700 pounds.  In terms of design, Ford clearly heard the raving about the Atlas Concept.  The 2015 F150 looks almost exactly like the Atlas!  In terms of engines, Ford’s taken the liberty of making smaller, more powerful engines the norm for the F150.  The base engine is a 3.5-liter V6 (the same one residing under the hood of the Explorer).  Ford also dropped the thirsty 6.2-liter V8 from the lineup.  The only available V8 is the splendid 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 shared with the Mustang.  The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 stays, but the EcoBoost has a smaller EcoBoost sister engine.  The smaller EcoBoost engine displaces a seemingly small 2.7 liters, yet makes as much power as the outgoing 3.7-liter V6.  All four engines will be mated to Ford’s six-speed automatic, but don’t be surprised to see the 10-speed automatic being co-developed with GM come into the mix sometime soon.  I can’t wait to see the 2015 F150 in person!
  2. 2015 Chrysler 200:  Chrysler’s been hit hard the last five or six years.  First, it’s bankruptcy.  Then, it’s being bought out completely by Fiat, then it’s just about every model coming out of the Auburn Hills factory being blasted with hate mail from every single automotive magazine in the U.S.  Chrysler’s trying to make up that image.  The design of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is simply stunning.  Based on the Dodge Dart’s platform, the 2015 Chrysler 200 will be instantly recognizable to anybody who has seen a 2013 Dodge Dart.  Chrysler’s trying to make the 200 easier to live with.  It’s got standard pass-through storage, better ergonomics, and most things in the cabin are electronic.  The 9-speed automatic that is used in the Jeep Cherokee will be standard across the line.  A 2.4-liter TigerShark 4-cylinder engine borrowed from the Dodge Dart is standard.  The step-up engine is a 295-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6.  I don’t know about you, but Chrysler just might be able to make an extremely competitive car in an extremely competitive segment.
  3. 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe:  Cadillac’s seen a massive resurgence in past years.  The 2008 CTS won Motor Trend’s 2008 Car of the Year trophy, and the 2013 ATS and 2014 CTS have both been praised for their good looks and fun-to-drive factors.  Just about everything is shared with the ATS sedan.  That’s a good thing.  The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine has 295-lb-ft of torque available at 3000 RPM.  Amazingly, the ATS coupe is said to weigh just 45 more pounds than the ATS sedan.  Cadillac’s even partnered with AT&T, Verizon, and T Mobile to ensure that the ATS Coupe has 4G LTE hotspot connectivity.
  4. 2015 BMW M3/M4:  BMW’s become obsessed with turbocharged engines.  Not only do they offer more performance, but they reduce weight and give better fuel economy.  The 2015 M3/M4 have a twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine that makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 425 horsepower.  The standard transmission is a six-speed manual (score for the purists), and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission borrowed from the M5 is optional.  BMW says that they cut 175 pounds compared to the E90 generation M3, so the 2015 M3/M4 should weigh about as much as an E46 M3.  The M3/M4 look extremely aggressive.  The front ends have massive air intakes, a bulging power-rise hood, and a wider front and rear track compared to the standard 3/4 Series models.
  5. 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZO6:  The 2015 ZO6 makes 625 horsepower (13 less than the ZR-1), and it has an 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts faster than a Porsche PDK transmission.  Chevy’s offering THREE aerodynamics packages borrowed from the C7.R race car, and it has the seven-speed manual transmission from the regular Stingray standard.  GM says that the 2015 ZO6 shattered course records at the Milford proving grounds on its FIRST time at the track!
  6. 2015 Ford Mustang:  Since I’ve already covered the 2015 Ford Mustang, I won’t spend too terribly much time on the 2015 Mustang.  Ford won’t answer many questions about the 2015 Mustang, which means that they’re still working on it.  Whatever.  It looks great, and I expect it to handle much better, as it’s been redesigned from the ground up!
  7. 2014 Porsche 911 Targa:  Finally, Porsche’s come out with the return of the iconic 911 Targa.  The 911 Targa doesn’t have the sliding top like previous Targas.  The Porsche 911 Targa is sure to bring back fond memories for many.  Because it’s a Porsche, expect to be set back at least $100,000 for a Targa 4S.  I can’t wait to see the 2014 911 Targa in person!
  8. 2015 Subaru Impreza WRX STI:  Subaru has made it’s reputation for making pocket rockets.  The 2015 WRX gave some hope for enthusiasts.  It’s equally at home rocketing down a gravel road or zooming around a track.  The STI improves on that.  It makes 305 horsepower (it uses the same engine as the previous generation), but it looks a whole lot better than the previous generation.  It looks more like a DTM race car combined with a WRC rally car.  Subie won’t tell ANYBODY how much the STI will weigh.  That’s a shame, because previous Subaru WRX STI’s have been plump.
  9. Kia GT4 Stinger Concept:  I think that I can safely agree with everybody here that Kia seriously needs to stop making amazing-looking concept cars until it decides to build them.  The GT4 Stinger has four seats, a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual.  Naturally, one’s mind drifts towards the Subaru BR-Z and Scion FR-S, the natural competitors to the GT4 Stinger.  Before Kia shoves this car into some secret bunker at the 38th Parallel, they need to build this car.  The engine is essentially a depowered version of the 400-horsepower engine used in the Pirelli World Challenge Optimas.  Kia, are you reading my thoughts?  If you are, BUILD THIS CAR!
  10. Toyota FT-1 Concept:  Toyota’s trying to appeal to enthusiasts.  The last car that did that?  The Supra.  Toyota’s FT-1 looks stunning, and it’s even available in Gran Turismo 6!  Toyota won’t tell what’s under the hood.  We all know that the Supra engine is dead.  Lexus is experimenting with high-powered 5.0-liter V8s in the IS F, and I could easily see the IS F’s engine under the hood of this stunning concept.  Even if Toyota doesn’t build this car, it still shows what future Toyota styling might look like.
  11. Volvo XC Concept Coupe:  Volvo’s made it’s living with industry-leading safety advances, but safety doesn’t sell millions of cars.  So, Volvo’s started cranking out extremely promising concept cars.  Considering that Plug-in Hybrid is etched into the fenders, it’s obvious that the XC Concept Coupe is definitely a hybrid.  Volvo stresses the fact that the XC Concept Coupe has “rich XC Heritage.”  Considering Volvo’s been making SUV’s since 1997, one could agree that the XC Concept Coupe would look stellar as a shooting brake.  
  12. Audi A8 L Security:  Some fullsize  luxury sedan buyers want theirs to be bulletproof.  Audi’s joined the fight against gunfight victims with the A8 L Security.  The A8 L Security is beefed up to an extreme.  It takes 450 man-hours to make all of the bulletproof components for the A8 L Security.  It is able to withstand sub-caliber machine gun fire, and buyers can even opt for an emergency exit system that blows the hinges off the doors, as well as a fire suppression system and an emergency fresh-air system.  The extra weight will substantially hamper performance, but the driver and passengers can get out of a sticky situation safer.

On a separate note, I have to go in for surgery next week.  During my time in the hospital, I will not have access to a computer, and I probably won’t be up to publishing anyways!  I don’t know how long I will be out for, but keep yourselves entertained with the Motor Trend Youtube Channel!  My favorite show is Roadkill.  I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do.  You can start watching the videos now at http://www.youtube.com/user/MotorTrend