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After pandemic hiatus, Detroit Auto Show reboots itself

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General Motors President of Cadillac Steve Carlisle revealed the Cadillac XT6 in January 2019 during the last Detroit Auto Show prior to the pandemic
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Less glitz, better weather. 

The Detroit Auto Show, long a dead of winter mainstay that drew car industry brass and international media to America’s “Motor City” ahead of a big public expo, will convene next week for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event, reconceptualized as a partly outdoor gathering, will spotlight the growing class of electric vehicles (EV) that are beginning to hit showrooms, in what is still the early days of a lengthy transition.

With no Detroit show since 2019, event organizers tout a chance for media and the public to check out vehicles that they may have only seen virtually until now.  

In another highlight, President Joe Biden plans to attend the show’s media day on Wednesday to highlight policies to boost EV adoption.

But longtime Detroit show attendees are expecting a fanfare-light affair.

In its peak years, the January event was known for free-flowing champagne and fancy nibbles as CEOs from Detroit’s “Big 3” and international giants like Toyota and Mercedes-Benz unveiled sparkling new four-wheel offerings.

Architects of the event, officially called the North American International Auto Show, are not trying to replicate the panache of the show’s earlier incarnation in light of profound changes since the last show in 2019.

“You can’t keep doing what you did,” Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. “You have to take some risk.”

Unlike with the winter show, attendees from the public will have the chance to ride in autos downtown. A “show above the show” will demonstrate emerging air mobility products.

But there is a paucity of major new vehicle reveals, in part because foreign brands that once competed with Detroit’s Big 3 for the spotlight aren’t presenting.

“It will be a very different show,” said longtime Detroit-based industry analyst Michelle Krebs of Cox Automotive. “The days of the auto show being big media splashes are over.” 

– Competing with virtual launches –

Detroit is far from the only show facing existential questions.

The Geneva auto show was canceled this year for the fourth time in a row and will relocate in 2023 to Doha, while the Frankfurt show moved to Munich and was reconfigured as a “mobility” event. Next month’s Paris show is expected to be smaller than in years past.

One major change concerns vehicle launches, with automakers discovering during the pandemic the benefits of virtual unveilings, which are cheaper than big auto shows that force them to compete for attention with other automakers.

General Motors went that route with its EV Equinox, revealing the much-anticipated vehicle online and through an appearance by Chief Executive Mary Barra on CBS News on Thursday — a week before the Detroit show.

“The way we reveal vehicles has changed in the last few years to accommodate new ways to reach a larger number of folks,” said GM spokesman Chad Lyons, adding that the Equinox and other leading EVs will be shown in Detroit along with another new product introduction.

The biggest product reveal is expected to be Ford’s seventh-generation Mustang. Seeking to pique interest, the Michigan auto giant has not said whether the auto to be unveiled Wednesday is electric or internal combustion engine.

The Mustang launch was first announced on Twitter in July by Chief Executive Jim Farley. The company has organized a “stampede” to Detroit’s Hart Plaza of Mustangs from the six earlier generations, begun in Tacoma Washington and crossing nine states.

Besides Ford and GM, Stellantis also plans new vehicle events in Detroit, including a reveal Tuesday night near Huntington Place, the indoor venue. 

Analysts expect shows like Detroit to continue to evolve away from being media spectacles and revert to their original function for consumers to check out vehicles.

“It’s still important as a consumer experience, a place where there’s no pressure and you can just see the vehicles,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for the automotive research firm Edmunds.

Even so, the Detroit show has still seen 2,000 media pass registrants from 30 countries, said Alberts, who believes the shift to EVs means the show also provides the public the chance “to understand these new technologies and be more comfortable with them.”

Post-pandemic realities make predictions impossible, but Alberts said public attendance of 500,000 would be a success. At its peak, the event drew more than 700,000, he said. 

Analyst Krebs described the show’s prospects as a question mark. Holding the event in January, a season of bitter cold, coincided with a season when being inside made sense. September marks the return of American football during a season when people like to be outside.

“It’ll be a big test of whether you’ll get consumers when there’s other things to do,” she said. “Let’s see what happens.”

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UK eyes big TikTok fine over child privacy lapse

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A UK regulator said TikTok ay have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent
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Britain on Monday warned it could fine TikTok £27 million ($29 million) over a potential failure to protect children’s privacy on the Chinese-owned video app.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said the social media company “may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent”.

The ICO also found that the short-form video platform may have “failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way”.

The watchdog has served the group with a notice of intent — which is a legal document that precedes a possible fine — over the possible breach of UK data protection law.

“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards.

“Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.”

In response, TikTok said it disagreed with the ICO’s provisional views and stressed that no final conclusions had been reached.

“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course,” TikTok said in a statement.

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Apple to make iPhone 14 in India in shift away from China

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The Apple logo at a store in New York
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Apple will manufacture its new flagship smartphone in India, the US tech giant said Monday, as it seeks to diversify production away from a dependence on China.

The iPhone supply chain is based mainly in China but the country’s zero-Covid policies and tensions with the United States have hurt production, analysts say.

“We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India,” Apple said in a brief statement.

The California-based firm already makes older iPhone models in India via Taiwanese manufacturers such as Foxconn, which has a factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The latest announcement comes just weeks after Apple launched new smartphones. The tech behemoth is commencing production of the iPhone 14 in India much earlier than it did for previous models, Canalys analyst Sanyam Chaurasia said.

“Over the last couple of years, it has been increasingly diversifying its supply chain to India,” Chaurasia told AFP.

About 7.5 million iPhones — around three percent of Apple’s global production — were made in India last year, the analyst added.

“We expect that the local production of iPhones could reach more than 11 million this year,” he said.

Apple’s announcement will be a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” strategy under which he has urged foreign businesses to manufacture goods in the South Asian nation.

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US charges Boeing with misleading investors on 737 MAX safety, fined $200 mn

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US regulators say Boeing and its former CEO 'put profits over people,' misleading the public about the safety of the 737 MAX aircraft
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US securities officials fined Boeing $200 million over the aviation giant’s misleading assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX airplane following two deadly crashes, regulators announced Thursday.

Boeing agreed to the penalty to settle charges it “negligently violated the antifraud provisions” of US securities laws, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement, saying the company and its leader “put profits over people.”

Boeing’s former chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, also agreed to pay $1 million to settle the same charges in the civil case.

The settlement marks the latest hit to Boeing over the MAX following the Lion Air Crash in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia in March 2019, which together claimed nearly 350 lives. 

One month after the first crash, a Boeing press release approved by Muilenburg “selectively highlighted certain facts,” implying pilot error and poor aircraft maintenance contributed to the crash.

The press release also attested to the aircraft’s safety, not disclosing that Boeing knew a key flight handling system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), posed safety issues and was being redesigned.

After the second crash, Boeing and Muilenburg assured the public that there was “no surprise or gap” in the federal certification of the MAX despite being aware of contrary information, the SEC said.

– Boeing ‘failed’ –

“In times of crisis and tragedy, it is especially important that public companies and executives provide full, fair, and truthful disclosures to the markets,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in a press release. 

“The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this most basic obligation. They misled investors by providing assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX, despite knowing about serious safety concerns.”

The SEC said both Boeing and Muilenburg, in agreeing to pay the penalties, did not admit or deny the agency’s findings.

Boeing said the agreement “fully resolves” the SEC’s inquiry and is part of the company’s “broader effort to responsibly resolve outstanding legal matters related to the 737 MAX accidents in a manner that serves the best interests of our shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders,” a company spokesman said.

“We will never forget those lost on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and we have made broad and deep changes across our company in response to those accidents.”

US air safety authorities cleared Boeing’s 737 MAX to resume service in November 2020 following a 20-month grounding after the crashes.

A principal cause of the two crashes was identified as the MCAS, which was supposed to keep the plane from stalling as it ascended but instead forced the nose of the plane downward. The Federal Aviation Administration required Boeing to upgrade this system to address the flaw.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a US criminal charge over claims the company defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX.

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