Thompson Hine’s highly regarded automotive practice serves a broad variety of U.S. and international mobility and automotive clients, including automobile OEMs, suppliers, ridesharing enterprises, startups and technology companies, encompassing passenger vehicles, motorcycles, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, RVs, tires, trailers, off-road vehicles, specialty equipment, and the full spectrum of aftermarket equipment in a wide variety of litigation, regulatory and general business matters, including product liability cases involving catastrophic personal injuries, safety and environmental, NHTSA regulatory and compliance, intellectual property and patent prosecution, warranty cases, dealer franchise litigation, transportation and logistics matters. We combine both legal and technical resources and problem-solving to our work – unique from other law firms – whether in litigation, regulatory or general business in nature.
Our deep bench of automotive industry experience also benefits suppliers and service providers to the automotive industry. We have represented numerous automobile dealerships, suppliers and parts manufacturers in NHTSA compliance, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, import/export compliance and investigations, contract negotiations, product recalls and hazardous materials (HAZMAT) transportation issues.
We are well versed in the complex issues that surround the automotive industry and skilled at handling the nuances that these types of matters require.
In the mobility and automotive space, Thompson Hine provides strategic leadership and insights on matters of national and global significance to manufacturers, suppliers, startups and technology companies, including those related to, among other things, electric vehicles, ridesharing enterprises, and automated and autonomous driving systems, while promoting innovation, efficiency and cost savings. We bring a creative approach to solving problems related to high-profile mobility, vehicle safety and related regulatory matters, including self-certification of standards, homologation, regulatory compliance, innovative mobility and safety strategies, best practices and emerging trends, standards enforcement, defects investigations, government inquiries and enforcement proceedings, and recall implementation
The following is a representative sampling of our experience and work for clients in the auto industry:
Regulatory & Safety Compliance
- Providing unmatched legal and industry knowledge to a broad spectrum of U.S. and international mobility and automotive clients, including automobile original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, ridesharing enterprises, startups and technology companies, encompassing passenger vehicles, motorcycles, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, RVs, tires, trailers, off-road vehicles (ORVs), specialty equipment, and the full range of aftermarket equipment.
- Representing clients before U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies, including (among other DOT operating administrations) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA); as well as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Air Resources Board (CARB) and others.
- Providing comprehensive problem-solving services in high-profile mobility, vehicle safety and related regulatory matters, including, among other things, self-certification of standards (including U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs), EU standards and standards in other markets), homologation, regulatory compliance, innovative mobility and safety strategies, electric vehicles, ridesharing enterprises, emerging technologies, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), automated and autonomous driving systems, best practices and emerging trends, standards enforcement, defects investigations, government inquiries and enforcement proceedings, and recall implementation.
- Developing and maintaining, on a day-to-day basis, comprehensive automotive safety compliance programs for several global automobile OEMs and other Fortune 500 mobility and technology companies.
- Providing Clean Air Act and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions regulatory counseling to OEMs.
- Providing ongoing advice and counsel to the corporate technical/product safety committees of several U.S. and global companies responsible for the determination of defect, compliance, field action and recall issues for the companies’ respective vehicles and equipment.
- Creating first-of-their-kind regulatory and legislative strategies for several prominent U.S. and international mobility and automotive clients to advance automated/autonomous driving system development and deployment in the absence of regulatory certainty.
- Leading a multi-month comprehensive legal and engineering analysis and assessment for a Fortune 500 mobility OEM on pre-production and design issues for new vehicle products and associated lines that avoided potentially costly safety and quality issues, promoted increased teamwork within the company’s relevant engineering and business units, and promoted the company’s market objectives.
- Conducting an internal regulatory and safety compliance review for a Fortune 50 multinational corporation and technology company, resulting in key business insights and recommended process improvements for operations and sales in the U.S. and global mobility and automotive sectors.
- Working with the firm’s Environmental practice group to advise mobility and automotive clients on environmental legal issues, particularly regulatory issues under the Clean Air Act and CARB mobile source emission regulations, and attendant matters before EPA and CARB.
- Providing clients with common-sense interpretations of federal statutes and regulations, including, among other things, FMVSSs, early warning (EWR)/TREAD Act reporting, foreign recall reporting, registration, labeling, VIN requirements, vehicle importation, prototypes and other NHTSA regulatory requirements that give clear business direction for company engineering and business units.
- Conducting root cause determinations, incident inspections and NHTSA/industry precedent analysis, including associated processes to mitigate risks for product issues, and assisting clients with FMEA and DFMEA reviews to manage safety outcomes, routine safety evaluation processes and industry benchmarking (both quality and safety).
- Preparing clients’ petitions for determinations of inconsequential noncompliance, requests for temporary exemptions from federal safety standards, requests for agency interpretation of existing federal statutes and regulations, and requests for protection of confidential business information (CBI).
- Working collaboratively with the firm’s trade and technology teams to advise clients on international trade issues (including tariffs, import and export regulations), cybersecurity matters, privacy issues and the full range of related corporate governance and compliance needs.
- Providing U.S. and global clients with business development advice and counsel on growth opportunities, including identifying new product segment and content feature opportunities, and guidance for startups with go-to-market strategies for novel mobility solutions.
- Assisting clients with risk management programs and conducting internal audits to create sustainable U.S. and global quality and safety organizational departments, including in-house legal and business-oriented training and ongoing support.
- Facilitating business partnerships and joint ventures among leading automotive companies, technology and product suppliers, mobility startups and applicable regulators.
- Drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts and contract language on safety determination reporting responsibilities and recall cost recovery and risk allocation.
- Drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts and contract language on mobility and emerging technology research projects and analysis of product usage, human factors, human machine interface (HMI) considerations and safety system integrity.
- Representing a U.S.-based trading and distribution company in connection with its regulatory compliance and other legal needs involving the truck transportation of its goods.
Litigation & Enforcement
- Representing U.S. and international mobility and automotive clients in countless NHTSA enforcement proceedings, defect and compliance investigations and recalls, and a host of other NHTSA administrative proceedings.
- Working with clients and the firm’s litigators in NHTSA investigations, product liability matters and class action litigations to cost-effectively identify, preserve, collect, process and produce relevant and material electronic data and documents involving hundreds of custodians, millions of documents and documents in foreign languages, including managing review teams for large document review projects in a centralized document review center, drafting and reviewing discovery responses to NHTSA, other federal agencies and courts.
- Working closely with the firm’s litigators in product liability cases, class action matters and cases involving judicial review of federal regulatory decisions, including issues regarding, among other things, associated compliance with federal safety standards, emerging technologies, ADAS, automated/autonomous driving systems, associated standards of care and preemption.
- Creating, in the absence of crisis and in collaboration with the firm’s litigators, modern and innovative approaches for clients that integrate regulatory issues arising in civil actions to benefit product liability litigation, class action litigation, and government inquiries and enforcement cases.
- Maintaining longstanding representation of a U.S. multinational automaker nationally and statewide in connection with product liability, premises and intentional tort, asbestos and company car cases. Product liability claims include allegations related to handling and stability, restraints (seat belts and airbags), sudden acceleration and numerous other electrical and mechanical claims that allegedly resulted in catastrophic injuries such as quadriplegia, paraplegia, fatality and burn injuries.
- Representing a Japanese public multinational conglomerate corporation in product liability and warranty cases in Ohio and West Virginia, including allegations of restraint and airbag defects resulting in fatalities and other catastrophic injuries.
- Representing a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer in product liability cases involving allegations of handling and stability allegedly resulting in fatality and catastrophic injury.
Legislative & Policy
- Providing strategic leadership for U.S. and global automotive and mobility OEMs in crisis management situations for recent high-profile government enforcement matters with significant congressional and media scrutiny, including proactive measures to build relationships with key federal regulators and other stakeholders.
- Developing client successes in connection with pending federal and state legislative proposals and policy issues, including, among other things, strategic advice and insights, legislative and regulatory monitoring, analyzing comments in federal rule-making proceedings, and day-to-day legal and engineering counseling that helps navigate the administrative and legislative processes.
- Preparing legislative testimony and comments in federal rule-making proceedings.
- Drafting legislative and regulatory language, with an eye to providing leadership to advance clients’ business goals and policy objectives.
- Representing clients before relevant trade associations and industry forums.
Corporate & Environmental
- Provide Clean Air Act and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions regulatory counseling to OEMS before EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
- Representing a provider of maintenance and support services in auto manufacturing plants in areas such as corporate and labor matters.
- Representing a multinational power management company that provides electrical systems and components for the automotive industry in all environmental aspects of numerous mergers and acquisitions, including preclosing diligence, contract negotiations, contract drafting and identification, and management of post-closing indemnification claims.
- Serving as corporate lawyer on many automotive-related acquisitions, dispositions and joint ventures for a multinational power management company.
- Performing numerous federal OSHA compliance inspections at major automotive plants and related industries, such as foundries, stamping and assembly plants, when employee safety complaints, accidents and fatalities occur.
- Fortune 10 global manufacturer of automobiles and light trucks
- Fortune 500 global recreational on-road and off-road vehicle manufacturer
- Global South Korean automotive company
- Global German multinational manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles
- U.S. affiliate of global German commercial truck manufacturer
- Global Indian multinational manufacturer of automobiles and off-road vehicles
- Preeminent U.S. heavy duty and medium duty truck manufacturer
- High-profile, privately held autonomous vehicle startup
- High-profile autonomous vehicle unit of a Fortune 10 global manufacturer of automobiles
- Preeminent U.S. and Canadian ridesharing service company
- Ridesharing service affiliate of a global German automobile manufacturer
- Several high-profile electric vehicle startups
- Automotive technology and advanced driver-assistance system companies
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