Above: The Mitsubishi eK Wagon, one of the cars at the centre of the company’s latest scandal.
One thing about creating and running Autocade is that you gain an appreciation for corporate history. Recently, I blogged about Fiat, and the troubles the company is in; it wasnât that long ago that Fiat was the designersâ darling, the company known for creating incredibly stylish vehicles for all its brands and showing how you could use Italian flair to generate sales.
That was the 1990s; by the turn of the century, Fiat had lost some of its mojo, and by the time I got to Milano in the early 2000s, the taxi ranks had plenty of German and French cars. Once upon a time, they would have been nearly exclusively Italian. Today, a lot of Fiatâs range is either made by, or on platforms shared with, Ford, GM, Chrysler (which it now owns), Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Mazda. Sharing platforms isnât a sin, but a necessity, but Fiat seems to have taken it to a new level, looking like a OEM brand whose logo is freely slapped on othersâ products.
Mitsubishi is the other car company to find itself in trouble in recent weeks. The company admitted that it had lied about the fuel economy figures for its kei cars, the micro-cars that it sells predominantly in Japan.
It wasnât as troublesome as Volkswagenâs defeat device which fooled the US EPA, running differently when it knew the engine was being tested. Mitsubishi kept things simple, and overinflated tyre pressures.
It would have got away with it, too, if it werenât for Nissan, a company to which Mitsubishi supplied, under an OEM deal, kei cars. The customer started to ask questions and tested the cars for itself.
Mitsubishi had supplied 468,000 cars to Nissan, all of which are affected. It had only sold 157,000 under its own marque. Production of the cars, from the eK range, and the OEM equivalent for Nissan, the Dayz, is now suspended, while Mitsubishiâs shares plunged 15 per cent on the news last week. Sankei, the Japanese newspaper, believes that Mitsubishi used the wrong test method on the I-MIEV electric car, RVR (ASX), Outlander, and Pajero, which are exported.
You have to wonder what the corporate culture must be like for these matters to recur so regularly. But then, collectively, people tend to forget very rapidly, and companies like Volkswagen and Mitsubishi must bank on these.
VW isnât the first to cheat the EPAâUS car makers have attempted less sophisticated defeat devices in the latter half of the 20th centuryâthough it has had a chequered past. Just over 10 years ago, there was a scandal involving VW colluding with a union leader to keep wage demands down, and a few low-level employees took the rap. Go back to the 1980s and the company found itself in a foreign exchange scandal. But these were known mainly among specialist circles, principally those following car industry news.
Mitsubishiâs scandals, meanwhile, were more severe in terms of the headlines generated. Last decade, when the media called Mitsubishi Japanâs fourth-largest car makerâthese days they call it the sixthâthe company was implicated in a cover-up over the safety of its vehicles. Japanese authorities raided the company in 2004, and revealed that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. hid defects that affected 800,000 vehicles, and had done so since 1977. Nearly a million vehicles were recalled. Affected vehicles were sold domestically as well as in Europe and Asia. Top execs were arrested that time, including the company president, although it was hard under Japanese law to punish Mitsubishi severely. There was no disincentive to conducting business as usual. The company was ultimately bailed out by its parent, the giant Mitsubishi Group, when it found itself facing potential bankruptcy.
People were killed as a result of Mitsubishiâs cover-ups, and at the time it was considered one of the biggest corporate scandals in Japan.
Go back a bit further and Mitsubishi Materials Corp., a related company, had used slave labour in World War II, including US troopsâsomething the company did not apologize for till 2015, even though the Japanese government itself had issued apologies in 2009 and 2010. While it was a first among Japanese corporations, and US POWs got what they had long awaited, descendants of Chinese slave labourers still have a lawsuit pending against a connected Mitsubishi subsidiary.
The other major difference between Volkswagen and Mitsubishi is that the Japanese marque is relatively weak in terms of covering its market segments. Itâs SUV- and truck-heavy, and its kei cars had sold well (till now), but it has little in the passenger car segments, which it had once fielded strongly. The Mirage (and the booted Attrage) and the Galant Fortis (exported as the Lancer to many markets) are whatâs left: the latter is now nine years old, though still fairly competitive, and in desperate need of replacement. Its only other car is its Taiwan-only Colt Plus, still selling there as an entry-level model despite having been withdrawn from every other market. In the big-car segments, Mitsubishi is actually supplied by Nissan in Japan, but doesnât make its own any more. âSixth-largestâ is shorthand for third-smallest, at least among the big Japanese car companies.
Mitsubishi looks set to quit the C-segment (Galant Fortis) since neither Renault nor Nissan, which it had approached, wanted a tie-up. And the company survives on tie-ups for economies of scale, and thereâs now a big question mark over whether potential partners want to work with it. Automotive Newsâs Hans Greimel questions whether the MitsubishiâFiat truck deal will go ahead (though I had thought it was an inked fait accompli).
But, most seriously, Mitsubishi hasnât completely recovered from its earlier scandal.
It is within living memory, and the timing and nature of the latest one, tying so closely to what rocked Volkswagen, ensured that it would get global press again, even if the bulk of the affected cars were only sold domestically. And when consumers see a pattern, they begin wondering if thereâs a toxic corporate culture at play here.
Weâre too connected in 2016 not to know, and while Mitsubishi is likely to be bailed out again, it will face the prospect of shrinking car salesâand sooner or later one will have to question whether the company will stay in the passenger-car business. Isuzu exited in the 1990s, focusing on SUVs, pick-ups and heavy trucks, forced by an economic downturn. Since Mitsubishiâs own portfolio is looking similarly weighted, it wouldnât surprise me if it chose to follow suit, its brand too tarnished, with too little brand equity, to continue.
As one of HM the Queen’s loyal and humble servants, I wish her a happy 90th birthday and include this YouTube video of one of her most memorable moments of recent times. A bit of the ‘Dambusters March’ can’t go wrong, either. It shows the Queen to have a particularly good sense of humour.
Above: Facebook’s latest move: ensuring that notifications for messages go to its own app. If you choose not to install it, tough. (Actually, you can reach your messages if you had bookmarked your old message index, and through some digging you can still get there. However, your old habit of clicking on the number won’t work any more.)
I notice that Facebook has dropped to third in Alexa this week, but none of the tech press has covered it.
I know the usual arguments: Alexa isn’t the best way of measuring audience stats; everyone (including us) has dropped because of the way Firefox has changed its status bar, thereby omitting a lot of users from its sample; Facebook itself will have recorded no real drop in user numbers (though we also know a lot of these so-called active users are bots and spammers, as we see heaps each day); and that Alexa doesn’t capture mobile data, where people are spending far more time these days.
It does seem rather hypocritical, however, given that the same tech press applauded and wrote heaps of articles when Facebook overtook Google in Alexa. Some hailed it as the rise and rise of Facebook. There were tones of how unassailable it had become.
However, its number-one position was remarkably fleeting and it quickly dropped back to second, where it has been for years, apart from that one blip.
Facebook’s position has been usurped by Google’s YouTube. I make no predictions on whether this is fleeting or not, but it doesn’t look good for Facebook. I just don’t see any YouTube hate out there. If you dislike reading the comments from the world’s keyboard warriors sitting in their underwear at home, a few cookie settings will render them invisible. YouTube becomes a remarkably tolerable site.
Earlier this month, a report found by my friend William Shepherd showed that personal sharing on Facebook had dipped by 21 per cent.
I have said for years that ‘Facebook is the new Digg,’ a place where news is shared, not personal updates, though it appears it has taken a while for the company to realize this. Looking at some of the bugs on the site over the years, I’m not surprised Facebook missed it: for months it acted as though its entire user base was in California, with the website stuck at the end of each month till it got to the 1st in its home state. Now it is kicking users off over fake malware accusations when it’s more likely, and this is my guess based on how the site has behaved over the years, that its databases are dying. Liking, sharing and commenting fail from time to time.
Given this, and its many other problemsâincluding the breach of policies outlined by some of the groups it participates in, impacting on user privacyâno wonder it’s experiencing this drop.
I see personal updates again that I saw a day before, because relatively few of my 2,300 friends write them any more. The trend has shifted, and a lot of users must have noticed what I did many years ago.
At Medinge Group we have long advocated transparency in brands, and Facebook’s actions run counter to a lot of what we have proposed.
We believe that sooner or later, people wise upâsomething we said about Enron at one of the first meetings I attended in 2002.
In fact, the way Facebook behaves tends to be combative, and for a 21st-century firm, its attitudes toward its user base is very 20th-century, a “them and us” model. It’s not alone in this: I’ve levelled similar accusations against Google and I stand by them. Since my own battle with them over malware, and a more recent one over intellectual property (where I was talking to a Facebook employee who eventually gave up when things got into the “too hard” basket), I’ve found dozens of other users via Twitter who have been kicked off the service, yet are running clean, malware-free machines. The blog post I wrote on the subject has been the most-read of the pieces I have authored in 2016, and certainly the most commented, as others face the same issue.
While both giants will claim that they could not possibly have the sort of one-to-one relationship with their user bases in the same way as a small business can, it’s clear to me that big issues aren’t being flagged and dealt with at Facebook. When I read the link Bill sent me, my first reaction was, ‘Why did it take so long for someone there to realize this?’
Let’s not even get started on the way both companies treat paying their fair share of tax.
It’s not about the number of people experiencing any given issue, it’s about the severity of the issue that a small number of people experience. By the time a larger vocal minority experiences it, the damage has gone a lot further.
Facebook does listen to some of these cases: I remember when it limited bot reports to 40â50 a day, at a time when it was not uncommon to find hundreds a day on the site. I complained, and after a few months, Facebook did indeed remove this limit.
But I regard that as an exception.
Its forced downloads of so-called malware scans that even its supplier refuses to answer for (could they have nefarious purposes?), and now the latest last weekâensuring that all message notifications in a mobile browser link to its Messenger app, resulting in a 404 for anyone who does not have it installedâare rendering the website less and less useful. In my case, I just use it less. We’re not going to download privacy-invading apps on our phoneâwe’re busy enough. We want to manage our time and if that means we only get to Facebook messages when we are at our desks, then so be it. Some might abandon it altogether.
Its other move is ceasing the forwarding from www.facebook.com to m.facebook.com on mobile devices, so if you had the former bookmarked, you’re not going to see anything any more. Some browsers (like Dolphin) came with the former bookmarked. Result: a few more legit users, who might not know the difference, gone. If there’s no trust, then regardless of the money you have, you’re not a top brand, nor one that people really wish to associate with.
Facebook, of course, knows some of this, which is why it has bought so many other firms where there’s still personal sharing, such as Instagram and Whatsapp.
It knows if there’s another site that comes along that gets public support, as it did when it first started, people will abandon Facebook en masse.
Curiously, even this past week alone, it seems intent to hurry them along. There must be some sort of corporate goal to see if it can reach fourth, just like Flight of the Conchords.
As he has done so many other times since we encountered each other in 2001, Simon Anholt has articulated my thoughts on governance and politics much better than I can through his ventures. I think this puts a very good context on why I ran my mayoral campaigns the way I did, and for that matter, a good deal of my own businesses. The ideas here are in line with what we believe at Medinge Group, tooâmore on that in an upcoming post. We live in a connected, globalized planetâand the sooner our leaders wake up to this fact, and the positive potential it brings, the better.
How can we better organize ourselves as seven thousand million people? My belief has been: if we can start at a city level, we can bring about change.
With the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the German TV show Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei, a fan group I runâthe largest unofficial community on Facebook for the seriesâhas been the subject of a Blitzkrieg by RTL. Trailers, which made up the majority of the uploaded videos, are indeed copyrighted material, but have resided happily there since 2008. But in their determination to have every video cleansed from Facebook, individual members’ copyrighted material, as well as videos that do not even belong to RTL, have been the subject of their claims.
As someone who is usually on the complainant’s side in DMCA cases, I have a lot of sympathy for their positionâbut I’ve never gone to a website to lay claim to material that isn’t ours. You would think that a company as well resourced as RTL would be able to tell the difference, if a far smaller firm like ours can, but it appears there are keyboard warriors even in the largest TV networks. A reply, therefore, is needed, and it’s going to be a nice weekend sans Facebook, where I have been barred for three days without their usual counterclaim procedure operating. Luckily, I had set up a back-door account to administer pages and groups, after Facebook’s anti-malware malware incident, which is practically all I do there these days anyway.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we note that all videos uploaded to the largest Facebook group about the TV series Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei (https://www.facebook.com/groups/autobahnpolizei/) have been the subject of complaints by you, causing them all to be removed.
We acknowledge that some of these videos contain content from Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and Action Concept. They have resided there since 2008 without a single complaint, and the overwhelming majority (over 90 per cent) are trailers that you have permitted not only on this group, but all fan groups.
Our group is non-profit and promotional in nature. Contractors to and employees of RTL and Action-Concept have happily been members for years, so it is clearly known to your organization.
You have also permitted fan edits to your material on YouTube for years, where derivative works have been created and reside.
Derivative works include subtitled, reworked Bulgarian translations to your trailers by Mr Hristian Martinov that feature new graphics, fan edits by Herr Thorsten Markus GrĂŒtzmacher featuring the history of the series, and fan videos by Herr Stefan Wilke made in 2002 and 2004. Given RTLâs own stance on these elsewhere, principally on YouTube, there is an appalling double standard that you have applied to this Facebook group.
We acknowledge that on a strict legal interpretation, some of these can be subject to your copyright claims and, had we been approached privately, we would have removed them. However, we are deeply concerned over content that Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland falsely and deceptively laid claim to, and is no concern of yours.
You have stated to Facebook that these are videos that you or your organization created. In the cases detailed below, this is not true.
We have two reporting numbers provided to us by Facebook, 1687808734841713 and 235243696819825, although numerous others relating to this group apply.
Among those are videos that you have falsely and deceptively laid claim to include those shot by individual members on set on visits to Action Concept, videos shot privately by Herr GrĂŒtzmacher while he was contracted to Action Concept, advertisements made by Kia Motors Deutschland GmbH which feature Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11 characters, news articles covering Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11 that are not owned by RTL but by their respective news networks, and an advertisement for Daimler AG that has no connection whatsoever to Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11, Action-Concept, or RTL.
Please be advised that Facebook operates on US copyright law, which the above items do not fall foul of as they relate to RTL; even if they do, they are outside the scope of copyrighted material that you have any authority to file complaints about. The notion of German moral rights in copyright do not apply in the United States in this respect.
Your actions have caused accounts to be disabled and while this may be warranted in the cases that concern RTL material, it is not warranted in cases where you have made false claims to Facebook. Your statements are not only inaccurate in these cases, they are also defamatory in nature and we consider them libellous.
We are prepared to vigorously defend our position.
Nevertheless, we are reasonable, and we propose a fair solution. As there is no way to compile every reporting number over eight years of material that has vanished in the space of 24 hours, we request that all the material you have reported on this group to be reinstated in full. Once that is done, the group’s moderators work alongside you to remove, individually, only the content that belongs to you. Reinstatement should occur within a week of this email, while removal of all RTL trailers, promotional material, and direct clips from the showâthe last of which are indisputably RTL copyrighted materialâwill be done over the following week.
Facebook notes that you are under no obligation to respond. Please be advised that this message will be openly published, and will also be sent to you as hard copy, with other parties cced.
Jack Yan, LL B, BCA (Hons.), MCA
ccs for Action Concept and Facebook, under separate cover
What an innovative way to generate goodwill for a TV series in the days before the network kicks off its 20th anniversary tributes (on March 12).
I had expected our car encyclopĂŠdia Autocade would reach 8,000,000 page views this month, just before its eighth anniversary. The difference was that this time, I was there last Monday GMT (the small hours of Tuesday in New Zealand) to witness the numbers tick overâalmost.
Usually, I find out about the milestones ex post facto, but happened to pop by the websiteâs statsâ page when it was within the last hundred before hitting 8,000,000âand took the below screen shot where the viewing numbers had reached 8,000,001 (I also saw 7,999,999; and no, these special admin pages are not counted, so my refreshing didnât contribute to the rise).
The site is on 3,344 individual entries (thereâs one image for each entry, if youâre going by the image excerpt), which is only 86 more than Autocade had when it reached 7,000,000 last October. The rate of viewing is a little greater than it was for the last million: while I’m recording it as five months below, it had only been March for just under two hours in New Zealand. Had Autocade been a venture from anywhere west of Aotearoa, we actually made the milestone on leap day, February 29.
Not bad for a website that has had very little promotion and relies largely on search-engine results. I only set up a Facebook page for it in 2014. Itâs been a labour of love more than anything else.
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 page views (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 page views (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 page views (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 page views (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 page views (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 page views (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 page views (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 page views (five months for eighth million)
I started the site because I was fed up with Wikipedia and its endless errors on its car pagesâIâve written elsewhere about the sheer fictions there. Autocade would not have Wikiality, and everything is checked, where possible, with period sources, and not exclusively online ones. The concept itself came from a car guide written by the late Michael Sedgwick, though our content is all original, and subject to copyright; and thereâs a separate story to tell there, too.
I acknowledge there are still gaps on the site, but as we grow it, weâll plug them. At the same time, some very obscure models are there, and Autocade sometimes proves to be the only online source about them. A good part of the South African motor industry is covered with material not found elsewhere, and Autocade is sometimes one of the better-ranked English-language resources on Chinese cars.
Iâd love to see the viewing rate increase even further: itâd be great to reach 10,000,000 before the end of 2016. It might just happen if the viewing rate increases at present levels, and we get more pages up. Fellow motorheads, please keep popping by.