Mercedes versus ShuanghuanEnlarge Photo
Last month, Mercedes-Benz USA shelled out almost $29 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after being fined for the poor fuel efficiency of its automobiles. (Yes, the NHTSA can do that.) Details are sketchy, but we know that many automakers expect to pay such fines, especially on their luxury vehicles; the corporate bean-counters simply build them into the cost of doing business. However, $29 million is a serious chunk of change--the third-highest fine ever levvied against an automaker--and MB is surely making a big ol' sad face today.
As if that weren't bad enough, the company is on the verge of losing two lawsuits: (1) a copyright infringement lawsuit against Chinese automaker Shuanghuan, which claims that Shuanghuan's Bubble model is a rip-off of MB's smart fortwo (fyi, there's some truth to that), and (2) a related lawsuit against the Bubble's Italian-based importer. BMW hurled similar charges at Shuanghuan and just got shot down, so Mercedes is trying to broker a deal to prevent legal losses and to short-circuit the massive €100,000,000 countersuit filed by the importer. Some months, it may not pay to get out of bed.--Richard Read