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Auto blogThu, 22 Aug 2013
Ford and Daimler have scored a major victory in a long-running lawsuit filed in US federal court by unnamed South African nationals. The suit alleges that both manufacturers and their subsidiaries sold their vehicles to the South African military, despite knowing that they'd be involved in violently putting down anti-apartheid protesters.
According to Reuters, South African plaintiffs filed the case under the 223-year-old Alien Torts Statute, a law which allows foreign nationals to file charges in US courts for perceived breaches of what was originally international law, but now more closely relates to violations of human rights.
And while the case - which also involves computer manufacturer IBM - has been tied up in federal courts for years, a recent case from the Supreme Court struck down a similar suit against Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell), arguing that the ATS doesn't apply to corporations or to conduct if it occurred outside the US. In short, the law applies to individuals, but not corporations like Ford or Daimler. A US appeals court ruled that the conditions apply in this case, potentially drawing this long-running saga to a close, as the defendants will now be allowed to request that the case be dismissed in district court.
Back in July, a mid-year study from YouGov found Ford to have higher brand perception than any other company in the US. While Ford failed to top the year-end study, it still has plenty to brag about. The final BrandIndex report shows that online retail giant Amazon edged out Ford for the top ranking, while Subway, the History Channel and Lowe's rounded out the top five spots.
For Ford, it's still an improvement from sixth place in the 2012 study, and, more importantly, it dominated other automakers in terms of brand perception with a clear advantage over Toyota, Honda, Chevy and Volkswagen. To determine how well - or not so well - a brand is perceived, YouGov uses a Buzz score that asks respondents whether they've "heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth" and whether it was positive or negative. While it isn't clear how many respondents were included, YouGov does point out that Ford had a strong presence in social media, advertising and newsworthy toward the end of the year.
For more details about the study and the top companies, check out the press release posted below.
There's no doubt that Ford is taking a risk in producing the body of its upcoming new F-150 pickup truck in aluminum. What is up for debate, however, is whether aluminum was a wise risk to take in the first place. Wards Auto took the opportunity to poll some experts on the subject of aluminum versus steel in the automotive sector, with somewhat unsurprising results.
Richard Schultz, a project consultant at Ducker Worldwide, which bills itself as "a leading aluminum industry consultant (though they also deal in steels), suggests that the potential drawbacks to aluminum - higher costs, lower supply - aren't really impediments to the auto industry's increased acceptance of the lightweight metal.
Similarly, Randall Scheps, global automotive marketing director for Alcoa, a massive aluminum producer, counters claims that aluminum is less safe for vehicle occupants, suggesting that the use of aluminum can actually increase safety as it could potentially allow for larger vehicles with more crush space than steel.