Salesman charged with faking employee discounts, costing FCA $8.7M

A high-volume Fiat Chrysler Automobiles salesman in suburban Detroit has been charged with defrauding the automaker out of $8.7 million by giving employee discounts on vehicles to customers who weren’t eligible.

Apollon Nimo, 34, a salesman at Parkway Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, illegally used discount codes meant for family members of FCA employees in sales and leases to nonqualified buyers thousands of times from 2014 to the present, a federal investigator wrote in an affidavit filed Friday in U.S. District Court. Nimo closed more deals using employee discounts than any other FCA salesperson in Michigan, and at times was No. 1 nationwide, according to the affidavit.

Officials at the dealership in Clinton Township, Mich., did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Nimo has been removed from the staff listing on the store’s website.

In the majority of transactions that prosecutors allege were fraudulent, buyers claimed to be the brother-in-law or sister-in-law of an FCA employee to get a 5 percent discount. The discount codes, known as Employee Purchase Control Numbers, were often bought and sold through private Facebook groups.

FCA’s losses from the scheme were compounded by bonuses he received for selling its vehicles, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Joseph Kunnummyalil wrote. From 2010 to 2019, Nimo received $700,000 in rewards directly from FCA, in addition to his compensation from the dealership.

Authorities started investigating Nimo after FCA employees began complaining that their personal discount codes were being applied to sales without their consent, with many saying the numbers were used at Parkway. In the summer of 2019, FCA sent Kunnummyalil a list of 268 employee numbers that were reported as unauthorized by its employees. All of them were linked to sales made by Nimo from Feb. 21, 2016 to June 18, 2018.

A manager at a nearby FCA dealership told investigators that Nimo sold about 250 vehicles in January 2020 alone, an unusually high number. The manager said Nimo frequently sold more vehicles himself than entire sales departments at most FCA dealerships.

In 2014, Nimo’s father, Salim, leased at least three vehicles through his son at Parkway, investigators found. Apollon Nimo falsely indicated that his father was the brother-in-law of three different FCA employees, the filing said.

Nimo’s name came up in Facebook groups discussing the buying and selling of employee discount codes. According to screenshots included in the government’s case, one group member asked for recommendations on leases, for example, and another responded: “Come on Peter I’ve told you about Apollo 1000 times plus everyone else in here uses him.”

2022 Honda Civic: A deeper dive

Join Roadshow News Recap as we dive into the 2022 Honda Civic and answer your questions! We also discuss the new Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, Hyundai’s hot Kona N and is Toyota building two giant new SUVs?

Stories:
Civic: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/2022-honda-civic-sedan-official-debut/
Mach-E GT: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/ford-mustang-mach-e-gt-performance-pricing-ordering/
Kona N: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/hyundai-kona-n-official-debut/
New Toyota SUVs: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/toyota-two-new-three-row-suv-lexus-indiana/

Hosted By: Craig Cole & Sean Szymkowski
Produced By: Evan Lee Miller

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O21STACK

2020 Kia Soul Yearlong Review: The Verdict

2020 Kia Soul Yearlong Review: The Verdict

Kia Soul Full Overview

Lost in the hoopla of awarding the Chevrolet Corvette MotorTrend‘s 2020 Car of the Year was that one of the other podium finishers was the Kia Soul. Although the Soul’s status might come as a surprise to some, those who have been paying attention to the vehicle’s progress through each generation know Kia has been hard at work refining it into a best-in-class vehicle.

This studious effort by Kia became even more apparent after spending over a year with a Soul in our test fleet. It’s more apparent than ever that the Soul is a well-built, spacious, comfortable hatchback that cleverly walks the fence between car and SUV, all the while providing an engaging driving experience. In fact, the Soul sits at No. 2 on our vehicle ranking list of best subcompact SUVs, just below the Subaru Crosstrek. (The Soul straddles the dividing line between hatchback and SUV, and we’ve wavered on where to put it based on EPA classifications, Kia’s own labels, and common sense.)

Our long-term Kia Soul EX served the majority of its time with us during pandemic lockdowns, yet we still managed to clock more than 17,000 miles on its odometer. The Soul proved a trusty errand runner through the notoriously frustrating traffic and pock-marked streets of Los Angeles, and it served as a weekend family runabout to the beach and mountains. It even did some long-distance highway hauling in the hands of Top Gear America executive producer, Levi Rugg, as he visited filming sets in various far-off places. After his trips to remote filming locations in Arizona and Nevada, he said the Soul was perfectly suitable for 400-plus-mile drives and never hesitated to blow icy A/C even when Arizona’s temperatures exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit. He also enjoyed interacting with the 10.3-inch infotainment screen but wished he could dim it separately from the rest of the dash lighting.

Soul Full of Style

The Soul has always been known for its upright, boxy sheetmetal, but this latest version features more mature, refined styling that, when viewed from the side profile, is reminiscent of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. The thin, wraparound headlights and tapered all-black daylight opening seen in the profile have helped the Soul evolve into a more handsome vehicle—distancing itself from its nerdy, cute-ute origins. This current Soul is a far cry from the econobox first generation that made its debut in 2010.

Practicality is a Soul strong point, and one need not dig deep to discover the many cleverly designed parts that make the Soul so easy to operate. The key fob features a lock button that sits at a different angle than the other buttons, making it easy to lock the car by feel alone. The non-power-assisted liftgate is light and easy to open or shut with just one hand. The boosted steering makes parallel parking maneuvers and low-speed parking lot drills easy to execute, and at super-slow speeds, you can turn the steering wheel with just the palm of your hand. The manual parking brake lever, found between the front seats, is rare among new cars, and unlike electric parking brakes, you never have to wonder whether it’s set. Lastly, two struts keep the hood open, negating the need for a wiggly prop when you need to access the engine bay.

The Soul visited the dealership twice during its time in our fleet. Both visits were for manufacturer-recommended maintenance, which included the familiar oil and filter change, tire rotation, and multipoint inspection. During the second visit at 15,000 miles, the cabin air filter was also replaced for a charge of $60.

Soul Mate

Despite its quirky, utilitarian appearance, the Soul consistently proved fun to drive and handled better than expected. Capable steering complements a competent chassis and encourages precise lane changes, zippy on-ramp speeds, and the occasional detour to a local curvy road for kicks and giggles. Suffice to say the Soul doesn’t need to handle as well as it does, yet its overall composure and agility are a welcome addition that adds an endearing level of enjoyment to the driving experience.

2020 Soul EX models—like our long-term car—come standard with 17-inch wheels, but we opted instead for 18-inch wheels with low-ish-profile tires. The short sidewalls have an adverse effect on ride comfort and cabin noise and we often wondered whether the available smaller wheel/tire combination would make for a better, more livable choice in terms of ride quality. We even contemplated how much better the ride could be by swapping on a set of 16-inch wheels and tires from the lower-spec Soul S. L.A. ‘s freeways are smooth and flat, but many of its potholed residential roads appear carpet-bombed, and the low-profile tires showed no forgiveness on those. Of course, downsizing the wheels and tires would likely diminish the aforementioned handling, but it might be a trade worth taking. The good news is that those 16-inch wheels are also offered with attractively styled wheels.

Overall, the Soul’s 147 hp 2.0-liter I-4, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that rarely reminds you it’s a CVT, helpful sightlines for parking, and great ingress and egress all contribute to a vehicle that eases the tasks of everyday life. This third-generation Soul proved its appeal via practicality, personality, and surprising driving dynamics. Combine all that with unique sheetmetal, and the Soul is evidence one need not spend a fortune to drive something distinctive.

Looks good! More details?

Read more about our long-term 2020 Kia Soul EX test vehicle:

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2020 Kia Soul EX
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD
ENGINE TYPE I-4, alum block/head
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 122.0 cu in/1,999 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.5:1
POWER (SAE NET) 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
REDLINE 6,750 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 20.3 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 5.72:1/2.20:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs
STEERING RATIO 13.3:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.4
BRAKES, F; R 11.0-in vented disc; 10.3-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 7.5 x 18-in cast aluminum
TIRES 235/45R18 94Y M+S Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 102.4 in
TRACK, F/R 62.0/62.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 165.2 x 70.9 x 63.0 in
TURNING CIRCLE 34.8 ft
CURB WEIGHT 2,981 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 61/39%
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 39.4/39.5 in
LEGROOM, F/R 41.1/38.8 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 55.5/54.7 in
CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R 62.1/23.4 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 3.2 sec
0-40 4.6
0-50 6.4
0-60 8.6
0-70 11.5
0-80 15.2
0-90 19.8
0-100  —
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.5
QUARTER MILE 16.7 sec @ 83.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.85 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.4 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,750 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $23,685
PRICE AS TESTED $25,755
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 10 yrs/100,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 14.3 gal
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 23.5/36.2/27.9 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 27/33/30 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/102 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.66 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular
Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 14 mo / 17,485 mi
BASE PRICE $23,685
OPTIONS EX Designer Collection ($1,500: 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, leatherette seats), Platinum Gold paint ($345), carpeted floor mats ($130), cargo tray ($95)
PRICE AS TESTED $25,755
AVG ECON/CO2 26.4 mpg / 0.73 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREAS None
MAINTENANCE COST $198.19 (2- oil change, inspection, tire rotation; 1- in-cabin air filter)
NORMAL-WEAR COST $0
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE* $17,700 (69%)
RECALLS None
*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years

U.S. SEC probes VW ‘Voltswagen’ marketing stunt, report says

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an inquiry into the U.S. unit of Volkswagen Group over a marketing stunt in which it falsely said it was changing its name in the United States to “Voltswagen,” a person briefed on the matter confirmed to Reuters.

Spiegel first reported the inquiry and the SEC’s request for information about the issue made in early April and quoted VW as confirming the investigation.

Volkswagen declined to comment on the matter to Reuters. The SEC did not respond to a request for comment.

The company in March apologized after a false statement it issued about a phony name change was widely slammed on social media.

The stunt, which came just ahead of April Fool’s Day, was meant to call attention to its EV efforts, the carmaker said.

The initial statement outlining the name change, posted on its website and accompanied by tweets, was reported by Automotive News, Reuters and other outlets globally and included a detailed description of its purported rebranding efforts and new logos.

At least one analyst wrote a research note praising the name change. VW’s preferred shares, common shares and ADRs rose on the day of the phony name announcement.

Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh told Reuters in an April 1 interview that the phony name announcement was a “gag” and an attempt to “have some humor and “to celebrate our profound focus on electrification.”

He also discussed the “gag” at length in an interview with Automotive News.

Volkswagen in 2015 admitted to using illegal software to rig diesel engine tests in the U.S., sparking Germany’s biggest corporate crisis and costing the carmaker more than 32 billion euros ($39 billion) in fines, refits and legal costs.

New Porsche Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo Adds Practicality To Amazing Performance


The Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo isn’t just the most practical version of the Taycan but, as Matt Farah and Zack Klapman recently discovered, it is also capable of some extraordinary performance.

The example in question was the Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo variant and after jumping behind the wheel, both Farah and his co-host comment on the higher driving position. Whereas you sit as low in the regular Taycan sedan as you do in a Cayman, occupants sit much higher in the Cross Turismo, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The reviewers note, however, that in addition to the higher driving position, you can also feel the car’s higher center of gravity when driving it at high speed and hustling it through corners.

Read More: New Taycan Cross Turismo Is Porsche’s Electric Allroad That Starts At $90,900

In the U.S., Porsche will offer the Taycan Cross Turismo in 4, 4S, Turbo, and Turbo S forms, all of which offer the same horsepower and torque figures as the sedan. As such, the Turbo variant featured in this review has a pair of electric motors pumping out a combined 670 hp and allowing the lifted wagon to hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in less than 3 seconds.

While the higher center of gravity means the car doesn’t handle quite as well as the standard model, it still provides extraordinary levels of performance. What’s more, the Cross Turismo is more practical. Farah notes that he is too big to fit in the rear of the standard Taycan but can fit quite comfortably into the rear seats of this variant.