Sonari Glinton | KCUR

Sonari Glinton

Martin Winterkorn, the former head of Volkswagen, was indicted on Thursday along with five other former VW executives on charges of conspiracy and fraud in connection with a years-long scheme by the automaker to cheat on auto emissions tests.

Winterkorn, who led VW from 2007 to 2015, is the highest profile figure charged in the scandal that forced him to resign.

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Volkswagen is trying yet again to turn the page after its emissions cheating scandal — leaving diesel behind in favor of electric cars.

The major shift comes as the German automaker — the world's largest in term of cars sold — has a new leader in Herbert Diess.

For decades, China has been one of the most difficult places to sell a car, and one of the most lucrative.

Nearly 29 million vehicles were sold in China in 2017, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That's 11 million more than what sold in the U.S. last year, according to Wards, an auto data tracking firm.

This week, Chinese officials announced they're planning to relax some rules specifically for electric cars.

Here are some of the barriers that makes selling a car in China problematic.

1. The 50/50 rule

Last year was yet another good one for the U.S. auto industry. Overall, 17.2 million vehicles were sold in 2017 — one of its five all-time best years — and profits were high.

Automakers aren't rejoicing — sales declined about 2 percent after reaching a record in 2016. And, despite a good economy, analysts predict another drop this year.

"I can tell you (we're) coming off a plateau in the last couple of years for sure," says Mark Scarpelli, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Automakers are watching closely as the Trump administration tries to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the latest round of talks is under way in Mexico City this week.

NAFTA touches almost every business sector — few more than the car industry. Automakers say that changing the agreement could boost their costs and make them less competitive.

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As car companies make strides toward expanding the reach of electric cars in the U.S., the same is happening in the world of two wheels.

Outside the U.S., motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are vital, affordable forms of transportation that alleviate congestion. They also run on fossil fuels, and many of the smaller motors are more polluting than regular cars.

California has the toughest air quality regulations of any state in the country. But they're not tough enough to satisfy a new state law that requires California to double the rate at which it cuts greenhouse gases.

So this month, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan it says is aimed at "decarbonizing" the state's economy.

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What happens when you're faced with a workforce that seems unwelcoming or even hostile? For people like Dennis Jackson, often the answer is to become your own boss.

In Los Angeles, he is making the best of an October heat wave by selling solar panels. Jackson says he has essentially always been an entrepreneur. He started in landscaping and moved toward solar panel installation.

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In this week's All Tech Considered, we look at technology in cars.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Tesla gets more than its fair share of media hype, but it appears to be stumbling in the spotlight.

Citing "production bottlenecks," Tesla reported this week that it delivered only 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 in September. That's far below some pretty ambitious goals set out by its CEO, Elon Musk.

Ever since its fabled role in World War II, Jeep has been an American icon. And now the famous U.S. brand may be sold to a Chinese company.

Jeep was primarily made for the United Sates military, starting in 1941. It was used to transport troops during World War II, and that's when the rugged-looking vehicle captured the imagination of people worldwide.

The Trump administration has begun the process of rolling back tough fuel standards for America's car and light truck fleet.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department have opened the public comment period on the rewriting of standards for greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025.

While more than 500,000 people have put down a deposit for the privilege of owning Tesla's new Model 3, according to the company, 30 employees were the lucky few to receive their vehicles first.

Ford Motor Company's new CEO, Jim Hackett has a pretty daunting job description: prepare Ford for a future of self-driving cars and keep things profitable by selling trucks. While Hackett has a unique set of skills, that's still an extremely tall order.

Ford Motor Company is different than the other car companies.

After seven years of growth, the auto market is seeing weakness.

In April, sales were off by 4.7 percent. That's despite the continued robust sales of highly profitable SUVs and trucks. That's no big deal for an industry that just got off of two record seasons, but not so for investors.

The pain is being felt across the auto world.

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President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday night to say Ford Motor Co. executive chairman William Ford Jr. had called to say the company would not move production of the Lincoln MKC from its Louisville Assembly Plant to Mexico.

A second Trump tweet claimed credit for the decision.

Ford, however, said it neither planned to close the Louisville, Ky., plant nor reduce jobs there. The company said it had considered moving Lincoln production to Mexico to increase production of the Ford Escape in Louisville.

As iconic as the brand Smith & Wesson is, the name is not expansive enough for the company's ambitions. Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. is asking its shareholders to approve changing the name to American Outdoor Brands Corp. But its firearms will keep their famous name.

The company says it will likely change its ticker symbol to AOBC from the current SWHC. The name change has already been approved by the company's board of directors. Shareholders get a vote on Dec. 13, according to a statement from the company.

General Motors appears to have won the October sales race among the big automakers. GM saw its sales fall by just 1.7 percent in October. It has good company in those sales declines, being joined by nearly all the other carmakers. Overall, automobile sales in the U.S. are expected to drop between 6 and 8 percent when all the reports are in.

Smartphone chip maker Qualcomm Inc. has agreed to buy NXP Semiconductors for $38 billion. The agreement allows Qualcomm, which makes chips for Apple and Android, to become the top seller of semiconductors for the car business.

Qualcomm's core business is in processors and wireless chips for smartphones. The deal allows the San Diego-based company to reduce its dependence on smartphones, a huge business that has reached a plateau.

The French-speaking Belgian region called Wallonia is holding up Europe's free-trade agreement with Canada. CETA, or The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, would reduce or eliminate tariffs and make it easier for goods to move between countries, similar to NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Faculty members at more than a dozen Pennsylvania public universities went on strike on Wednesday. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties represents educators at 14 public universities. The strike comes after negotiations broke down between the union and Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.

At some point everyone, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, wants to bail from a presidential election. Okay, that's a hunch, but it's borne out, at least in part (caveats aplenty), in an online survey by the American Psychological Association.

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