Car Culture

Car Culture

Optimus Ride, developer of autonomous vehicle technology systems, announced Sean Harrington has been appointed as its new CEO and member of its board of directors, effective Nov. 30. Harrington replaces co-founder Ryan Chin, who will remain at the company with responsibility over policy and sustainability initiatives. Under Harrington’s leadership, Optimus Ride will continue advancing itstechnology and plans to scale up its commercial operations.

Harrington brings expertise developing, commercializing and scaling technology solutions, with experience at both startups and large, global corporations. Most recently, Harrington was vice president of City Solutions at Verizon where he was responsible for a broad portfolio of innovative products and services that helped cities increase livability, sustainability, and safety for their citizens. Prior to that, Harrington was chief operating officer and member of the board of directors at Sensity Systems. Harrington has a B.S. in Geomatics Engineering from the University of Calgary and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Optimus Ride’s autonomous vehicle technology system, designed to flexibly integrate into existing vehicle platforms, is now deployed at five customer locations around the U.S. and internationally.


Michigan announced that Ohio-based Lordstown Motors Corp.  plans to establish an automotive R&D center in Farmington Hills with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today. The project is expected to create 141 jobs.

 “This new facility reinforces Michigan’s reputation as the global center of the automotive industry and a leader in future automotive technology and electrification, and we’re pleased to work with our local partners to support Lordstown’s investment,” said MEDC Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President Josh Hundt

Lordstown Motor Corp., buiilds electric light-duty trucks, and  developing the world’s first all-electric pickup truck, the Lordstown Endurance. Founded over a year ago, Lordstown Motors officially debuted the Endurance at its Ohio headquarters over the summer and has received more than 50,000 pre-orders for the vehicle.

Lordstown Motors plans to establish an automotive R&D center in Farmington Hills that will consist of offices, space for vehicle inspection and benchmarking, and labs for testing, validation and prototyping. The company’s decision to locate its R&D headquarters in Michigan is part of its long-term vision of establishing an electric vehicle epicenter in the Midwest.

The project is expected to generate a total private investment of $3.6 million and create 141 jobs, resulting in a $1 million Michigan Business Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in California and Ohio.

FCA Wins Award

November 17, 2020

FCA was named National Minority Supplier Development Council’s Class IV "Corporation of the Year" at the 2020 National Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange held virtually on Oct 29. This is the second year in a row FCA has received this award.

The award recognizes the company’s exceptional strength in areas critical to minority supplier development and inclusion. Since 1983, the company has purchased more than $80 billion from diverse suppliers.

TrueCar Inc., AutoNation and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) announced the awarding of a vehicle to medically retired Air Force Senior Airman Karah Behrend. The retrofitted 2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 was presented to Behrend in a surprise virtual ceremony featuring TrueCar’s DrivenToDrive ambassador, Cory Remsburg, and TrueCar Military’s brand ambassador, Jesse Iwuji, in conjunction with Veterans Day,

DrivenToDrive was inspired by Army Ranger and DrivenToDrive ambassador, Cory Remsburg, who influenced TrueCar’s connection to the disabled veterans’ community. The DrivenToDrive program helps injured veterans, like Behrend, who have greatly sacrificed for our country, regain their independence and get back behind the wheel of a retrofitted vehicle. The DrivenToDrive program took place remotely this year with a virtual ceremony on Veterans Day. 

TrueCar Military brand ambassador, Jesse Iwuji,
TrueCar Military brand ambassador, Jesse Iwuji.

This year, TrueCar Military’s brand ambassador, NASCAR Driver and Naval Officer, Jesse Iwuji, participated as a special guest in the 2020 DrivenToDrive program. He surprised Behrend at her home in Phoenix, Arizona with the brand-new 2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.

“No one can see my disability when I’m behind the wheel of a car. Driving gives me a sense of freedom and the confidence that I’m not limited by my disability,” said Airman Behrend. “Whether it’s running errands or letting my adrenaline flow with off-road racing, I feel like I have my independence back when I’m driving. I’m proud of serving my country and so appreciative to be TrueCar’s 2020 DrivenToDrive recipient. I cannot wait to drive my brand-new Chevy Colorado.”

Behrend joined the Air Force in 2011 as a Signals Intelligence Analyst and spent approximately six and a half years in the military before medically retiring. She was diagnosed with RSD CRPS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) that left her in a wheelchair. The 27-year-old athlete participates in basketball and rugby Warrior Games. Additionally, Behrend is passionate about off-road racing and competes as an amateur rally racer; she recently placed second in the Rebelle Rally, the first women’s off-road navigation rally in the United States.

Behrend plans to use the vehicle that she receives from the DrivenToDrive program to train other disabled individuals how to drive off-road with hand controls, in case they find themselves in a vulnerable situation or stuck off-road. She also has ambitions to create her very own hand controls for manual transmission vehicles, so adaptive drivers can drive stick shift cars.

CarLotz, a consignment-to-retail used vehicle marketplace, named industry veteran, Becca Polak as the company’s first chief commercial officer and general counsel, effective October 30, 2020. Polak reports to Michael Bor, co-founder and CEO of CarLotz.

Polak, prior to joining CarLotz, served as president of TradeRev, a digital platform that facilitates live, dealer-to-dealer vehicle auctions and is a subsidiary of KAR Global.

She joins the existing CarLotz senior management team and will drive commercialization initiatives at CarLotz, including the national buildout of the CarLotz hub network, corporate vehicle sourcing partner development and new client acquisition.

As general counsel of CarLotz, Polak will manage the company’s legal operations.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining a pioneering company at such a pivotal moment in its growth trajectory,” Polak said.

CarLotz also recently announced it would become a public company via a merger that is subject to certain closing conditions with special purpose acquisition company Acamar Partners Acquisition Corp.

AutoNation Inc. announced it is adopting 50 local families through a partnership with Neighbors 4 Neighbors, Adopt a Family 4 the Holidays Program. AutoNation is asking the public to join in by dropping off unwrapped toys at any AutoNation store in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

AutoNation has a long track record of supporting communities, most notably through its DRV PNK Mission, which has raised more than $25 Million to help drive out cancer.

“South Florida is home to our corporate headquarters, 31 AutoNation locations and thousands of associates who care about making our community a better place,” said Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s, chief customer experience officer. “We are looking forward to providing deserving families with the resources they may need for joyful holiday celebrations.”     

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) announced that Martin Weissburg, chairman of Volvo Group North America and president of Mack Trucks, has been named to the NAM board of directors. 

“It’s an honor to be named to the NAM Board and to help the organization continue to advocate for policies that will ensure our ongoing growth and success as manufacturers,” Weissburg said. “More than 12 million people work in manufacturing, and I look forward to supporting them and the vital work they do by serving on the NAM Board.”

Founded in 1895, the NAM, guided by its Board of Directors, is the largest industrial trade association in the U.S., with more than 14,000 members. It serves as the nation’s most influential advocate for manufacturing. The NAM’s membership includes some of the world’s most iconic brands and many of the small manufacturers that power the U.S. economy. Nearly 90 percent of the NAM’s members are small and medium-sized businesses. 

Toyota's best-selling vehicle in America was recognized by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) at the annual Texas Truck Rodeo event. The 2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road was named Compact SUV of Texas for the second consecutive year.

"It's great the media members of TAWA recognized the RAV4 TRD Off-Road's ability to help people find their adventures on and off road," said Cynthia Tenhouse, vice-president, Vehicle Marketing and Communications for Toyota. 

This year's Texas Truck Rodeo brought together 27 journalists to evaluate 39 trucks and SUVs on an off-roading course in the Texas Hill Country. Vehicles from the world's top manufacturers were evaluated on interior, exterior, value, performance and personal appeal. Additionally, Toyota's 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, the 2021 Toyota Tundra Trail Special Edition and the 2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Special Edition were recognized as finalists in each of their categories. 

Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) announced the retirement of Edward (Ed) Laukes, group vice president of Toyota Division Marketing, effective Jan. 4, 2021.

Laukes is responsible for all Toyota division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives, NASCAR and motorsports, and all social and digital media. He also serves on the board of directors for several organizations, including Toyota Racing Development, Texas Rangers Youth Academy, Joe Gibbs’ Youth For Tomorrow, The Family Health Centers of Georgia, and the Kyle Busch Foundation.

Since joining Toyota in 1989, Laukes held positions in both the Toyota and Lexus divisions, including management roles at multiple field locations. Prior to his current position, Laukes was vice president of Integrated Marketing Operations, and vice president, Engagement Marketing & Guest Experience.

“Ed’s expertise and deep understanding of marketing helped shape Toyota’s perception among its customers in terms of safety, quality, reliability and fun-to-drive vehicles,” said Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales, TMNA. “He’s been instrumental in the success of our motorsports program, including 29 NASCAR championships across all three national touring series since 2007. The brand has truly thrived under Ed’s leadership and we thank him for his 31 years of service with Toyota.”

A successor for Laukes will be named at a later date.

Toyota announced its support of the new NASCAR Cup Series team 23XI Racing, which is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and current NASCAR Cup Series championship contender Denny Hamlin. 23XI Racing will make its debut in the 2021 Daytona 500 with Bubba Wallace behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota Camry.

The partnership with Toyota Motor North America includes support from Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A., who will build the team’s engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance.

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