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Automotive

Intro

Scores of automotive suppliers look to Warner Norcross & Judd for timely and cutting-edge advice. From multinational Fortune 500 companies to family-owned tier-two suppliers and small start-ups, we understand the complicated relationships between parts suppliers and vehicle manufacturers. That’s why we stay on top of the regulations, sourcing issues, disputes and environmental concerns that shape these relationships.

We provide counsel on highly specialized issues such as product liability, supplier contracts, automotive recalls and labor disputes. We also offer broad experience in litigation, M&A and in general business areas, such as real estate and construction, intellectual property, bankruptcy, environmental law and others.

We're leading the way with vast experience and strong connections to major innovators in the autonomous vehicle market. Learn more about our Autonomous and Connected Mobility team.

Located in the heart of the U.S. automotive industry, Warner Norcross works with companies throughout Michigan and around the globe. We have extensive experience in China, Mexico, Europe and Japan — both in locating American companies there and in helping transplants establish operations here.

Here is a sampling of what we do:

  • Principal outside counsel for several global automotive suppliers on all supply-related issues
  • Litigation counsel for automotive finance company and responsible for all commercial litigation in the Eastern United States
  • National litigation counsel for large automotive and aerospace parts supplier, successfully prosecuting and defending suits throughout the United States
  • Represented automotive suppliers in several major automotive bankruptcy cases in the U.S.
  • Served as debtor's counsel in automotive supplier Chapter 11 case, resulting in the sale of supplier’s operating assets for $45 million
  • Represented U.S. piston ring business in a Chapter 11 proceeding and Section 363 sale
  • Represented U.S. coatings company in its expansion into Canada, Taiwan and China
  • Assisted in Tier II supplier's acquisition of Tier I supplier's plants
  • Represented Japanese company in sale of automotive parts stamping facilities in Alabama
  • Facilitated stock purchase between automotive seat component manufacturers
  • Oversaw wind down and liquidation of CAD/CAM supplier to OEMs and Tier I suppliers  
  • Represented U.S. company in its sale of hydraulic systems and fluid power business to European company
  • Assisted in real estate and equipment asset purchase between automotive supplier businesses
  • Facilitated U.S. company's asset purchase of a metal automotive parts manufacturing facility located in Mexico
  • Assisted in sale of plastic injection mold factory by Tier I supplier following a major acquisition
  • Assisted in a series of multiple acquisitions and divestitures by affiliated plastic automotive parts suppliers
  • Represented management buyers of a publicly traded robotics business in a going-private transaction

Co-Chairs

Thomas J. Manganello

+1.248.784.5007

Email

Michael G. Brady

+1.248.784.5032

Email

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Professionals

Photo of Edward Bardelli
Edward Bardelli
+1.616.752.2165
Photo of Michael Brady
Michael Brady
+1.248.784.5032
Photo of Kurt Brauer
Kurt Brauer
+1.248.784.5182
Photo of Ralph Colasuonno
Ralph Colasuonno
+1.248.784.5033
Photo of Melissa Collar
Melissa Collar
+1.616.752.2209
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Sean Cook
+1.248.784.5058
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Homayune Ghaussi
+1.248.784.5139
Photo of Stephen Grow
Stephen Grow
+1.616.752.2158
Photo of Paul Jackson
Paul Jackson
+1.231.727.2626
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William Jansen
+1.248.784.5022
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Michael Jones
+1.616.752.2212
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Janet Knaus
+1.616.752.2150
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Dennis Loughlin
+1.248.784.5186
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Thomas Manganello
+1.248.784.5007
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Craig Meurlin
+1.616.752.2448
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John Muhs
+1.248.784.5165
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Jeffrey Ott
+1.616.752.2170
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Steven Palazzolo
+1.248.784.5091
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Jeena Patel
+1.248.784.5025
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Randall Peck
+1.248.784.5045
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Christopher Predko
+1.616.752.2190
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Louis Rabaut
+1.616.752.2147
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Adam Ratliff
+1.248.784.5154
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Michael Robinson
+1.616.752.2128
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James Romzek
+1.248.784.5130
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Michael Schubert
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Robert Skilton
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Gordon Toering
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Dawn Ward
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Brian Wassom
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Laura You
+1.248.784.5074
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John Young
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Lisa Zimmer
+1.248.784.5191
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Lance Zoerhof
+1.616.752.2384

Professionals


Tom Manganello
Chair
248.784.5007
Southfield

Michael Brady
248.784.5032
Southfield

Scott Carvo
616.752.2759
Grand Rapids

Ralph Colasuonno
248.784.5033
Macomb County

Ken Coleman
616.752.2708
Grand Rapids

Greg DeGrazia
248.784.5069
Southfield

Homayune Ghaussi
248.784.5139
Southfield

Kelly Hollingsworth
616.752.2714
Grand Rapids

John Muhs
248.784.5165
Southfield

Jeena Patel
248.784.5025
Southfield

Nate Steed
616.752.2723
Grand Rapids

Brian Wassom
248.784.5039
Southfield

Services

Federal Regulatory Compliance
 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will play an active role in shaping the driverless future. Its first significant step, Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released in September 2016, sets a framework for regulatory review of highly automated vehicle technology. NHTSA has also shown it will apply current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and other policy guidance to these new technologies, with its review of Tesla’s forward crash avoidance systems following the fatal crash in May 2016 and a special order directed to semi-autonomous aftermarket startup Comma.ai that forced it to pull out of the market. In the not-so-distant future, we anticipate mandatory safety standards specific to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, self-driving technology, and human-machine interfaces.
 
Warner Norcross has a highly skilled team of lawyers specializing in representing automotive suppliers in safety-related regulatory compliance matters, from conducting internal defect investigations and responding to NHTSA actions, to handling warranty and recall issues and complying with TREAD Act reporting.
 
State Regulation
 
The hesitance of federal regulators to impose innovation-deterring mandatory safety rules for driverless technology creates a vacuum that state lawmakers are anxious to fill. Eight states (and the District of Columbia) have already enacted laws regulating the testing and/or operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Companies doing business in this space thus face the possibility of a patchwork of legislative frameworks, making for a complex compliance challenge. Our attorneys monitor policymaking developments in all 51 jurisdictions to make sure our clients are always up to date.
 
Product Liability
 
The biggest hurdle to the deployment of self-driving cars and trucks is the vast uncertainty surrounding the liability risks faced by product developers. Automotive suppliers and software providers alike must apply traditional principles—negligence, strict liability manufacturing and design defects, failure to warn and misrepresentation—to increasingly complex arrangements involving jointly developed software dependent on external data sources. Companies will also continue to allocate some of the product liability risk through contractual provisions of warranty and indemnification. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience in successfully defending automotive suppliers in complex product liability litigation and dispute resolution. They understand the issues implicated by the new technology and counsel clients on how to avoid or mitigate product liability risk.
 
Supply Chain Risk Management
 
The introduction of autonomous car and truck tech is a significant part of an ongoing sea change in the automotive supply chain. Along with a consolidating supply base, the entry of non-traditional component suppliers, and the use advanced data recorders that can better isolate safety defects, this “disruptive innovation” will change the landscape of supply chain risk management. One possible development related to the new technology is a departure from PPAP and the adoption of a different testing and approval paradigm.
 
However the specific changes work themselves out, our attorneys recognize an opportunity for suppliers to leverage the shakeup to better manage risk. With decades of experience navigating the trucking and automotive supply chain on behalf of our clients, our attorneys appreciate the nuances of the industry’s notoriously arcane purchasing and business practices. They confidently tackle issues related to terms and conditions, supply agreements, software licenses, and the “battle of the forms” that can ensue between a customer and vendor.
 
Collaborative Innovation
 
Some pundits and prognosticators believe the changes in the auto and tech industries are pitting Detroit and Silicon Valley against each other in a zero-sum battle for supremacy. We see instead an opportunity for creative partnerships to bring together two cultures that have a great deal to learn from one another. Joint ventures, joint development agreements, standard-setting organizations, and public-private partnerships all provide avenues for stakeholders to collaborate in new ways, but not without risks of their own. Our attorneys assist established suppliers and new entrants alike in navigating the unique aspects of contracting in these cooperative settings without running afoul of antitrust laws.
 
Intellectual Property and Technology Licensing
 
In the modern automotive industry, vehicles are advanced computers, driven by complex technology and proprietary software.  But, this age of vehicle as technology hub and operating system raises intellectual property and technology licensing issues for both automotive manufacturers and suppliers alike.  The automotive industry must be more aware of technology and intellectual property licensing issues now than ever before.  Whether incorporating a highly technical piece of software into a vehicle, ensuring that your products interface with modern automobiles, or determining the best method for licensing your products for use in today’s computers on wheels, our team includes attorneys with in-depth experience in information technology transactions ready to advise clients on the intellectual property and licensing issues that frequently occur in today’s automotive industry.
 
Big Data: Ownership, Profit, Privacy
 
The age of “Big Data” is dawning for every type of business, driven by the proliferation of mobile devices and networked sensors, shrinking costs of data storage, and growing market incentives to keep and analyze data to inform economic activity. In the automotive world, weather and road conditions, traffic congestion, parking availability, payment of tolls, and notification of maintenance and repair needs are just a few of the many nodes in the budding automotive data value chain. Newer models, moreover, whether driven by human or machine, connect with their environment using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-devices or other points of inflection (V2X) communications. For the connected vehicle network to function properly and safely, data from individual cars must be collected, deciphered, stored, possibly anonymized and ultimately transmitted to other vehicles or roadside implements.
 
Companies in the automotive supply chain can profit from advances in data analytics in a number of ways: to facilitate maintenance and minimize warranty and recall costs; to improve logistics and production processes; and to make more informed product development and marketing decisions. Consumers, meanwhile, often resist the sharing of personal information, but at the same time recognize its value.  This means automotive industry participants must strike a balance between collecting and maintaining necessary and valuable information and respecting consumer concerns about privacy all while remaining compliant with relevant data privacy and security requirements.  We’re dedicated to helping our clients make informed decisions about big data collection, and the ownership, use, privacy, and security concerns that it inevitably implies.
 
Cybersecurity
 
Organizations encounter privacy and data security law issues in most aspects of their operations, from human resources to marketing and customer service.  Every day, organizations collect information about employees, customers, potential customers and business partners, which data is subject to increasingly more stringent privacy requirements by federal and state law, as well as by contract.  As automobiles begin to literally interact with the environment around them, and collect more data than ever before, issues of privacy and cybersecurity will become paramount. 

With a myriad of reasons to maintain data about the “users” of their products, participants in the automotive industry bear the responsibility of remaining up to date on the most recent privacy and cybersecurity requirements.  This challenge should be top of mind given the potentially significant liability in the event of a data breach.  Whether looking to keep up to speed on the most recent developments in cybersecurity and privacy requirements or considering how to respond in the event of a data breach, our attorneys are prepared to provide practical business advice on ways to manage cybersecurity risk and maintain compliance with current industry requirements.
 
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality
 
Digital data is being liberated from the two-dimensional screen. The displays that aid drivers in navigation, manufacturers in design, and servicers in performing repairs can now be superimposed on the physical world by means of mobile devices and smart eyewear. This revolutionary new method of interacting with digital displays empowers workers and holds the potential to make driving safer. Self-contained virtual reality displays are also being used both in the design lab and the dealer showroom to build, test, and sell vehicles. As with any new technology, however, the emerging media of AR/VR carry with them new risks and challenges, including driver distraction, product liability, invasion of privacy, deceptive advertising, and more. Our team includes world-renowned experts on AR/VR technologies and the legal issues they raise.
 
Ethics
 
Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics fail to capture the complexity of ethical issues that arise with autonomous vehicles.  At a minimum, collision avoidance systems need to take into account some sort of ethical framework.  An autonomous vehicle that is totally unbiased in the lives that it saves ends by forcing a manufacturer to take a position by default.  But, the ethical considerations extend even further.  Because of the vast amounts of data an autonomous vehicle collects on its own drivers, a company needs to consider what ethical obligations it has toward that driver.  Under what set of circumstances can a company share driver data with third parties, including insurance companies or law enforcement?  This problem multiplies considerably when autonomous vehicles begin collecting and using data on other cars and their drivers.  The trolley car problems are legion in the autonomous vehicle domain.  Our attorneys can assist you in thinking through these issues, establishing an ethical framework, and ensuring that your ethical obligations do not run afoul of your legal obligations.

Publications

 

Testimonials

Events

Jun 2009
03
June 03, 2009

A New Chapter: Restructuring the Automotive Industry

The Dearborn Inn

OESA invites clients of Warner Norcross & Judd to attend "A New Chapter:  Restructuring the Automotive Industry," a full-day conference on June 3, 2009, at the Dearborn Inn in...

Feb 2011
17
February 17, 2011

A Roadmap for Automotive Suppliers: 2011 Challenges and Opportunities

Barber Sports Museum

OESA invites automotive OE suppliers to attend "A Roadmap for Automotive Suppliers: 2011 Challenges and Opportunities" on Feb. 17, 2011, at the Barber Sports Museum, Leeds/Birmingham, ...

Oct 2011
12
October 12, 2011

2011 West Michigan Automotive Summit

Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center

8:30 - 11:30 am Today's new automotive platforms are "computers on wheels." The level of digital content is integrated into every inch of the vehicle. Increasing demands for fuel efficie...

Area of Focus

Our automotive attorneys offer a full range of legal services in areas such as:

Bankruptcy and Creditors' Rights

  • Representing secured creditors, debtors and creditors committees in bankruptcy cases and workout transactions
  • Structuring business transactions designed to anticipate bankruptcy problems

        Related Attorneys: Robert H. Skilton III

Commercial Litigation

  • Supply chain terms and conditions negotiations, dispute resolution and litigation
  • Standard terms of purchase and sale
  • Dealer and distributor agreements
  • Sales representative agreements
  • Requirements and exclusive dealing contracts
  • Tooling contracts, recovery and lien disputes
  • Consignments
  • Review and negotiation of loan documents
  • Buyer financing of custom production lines and equipment
  • Seller financing arrangements, such as purchase money security interests and letters of credit
  • Supplier litigation including breach of contract, supplier resourcing, purchase order conflicts, raw materials surcharge recovery and general commercial litigation

        Related Attorneys: Douglas E. Wagner 
                                      Douglas A. Dozeman 
                                      Thomas J. Manganello 
                                      Michael G. Brady

Construction and Real Estate

  • Real estate acquisition, financing, development, leasing and disposition
  • Zoning
  • Condemnation
  • Tax abatement and property tax appeals
  • Litigation
  • Contract drafting and preparation
  • Construction liens, filing and enforcement
  • Dispute resolution including mediation, arbitration and litigation

        Related Attorneys: Melissa N. Collar

Contract Drafting, Review and Negotiation Advice

  • Represent suppliers in drafting, reviewing, interpreting and negotiating automotive supply and commercial contracts
  • Assist both large publicly traded companies and small privately owned companies with lease, purchase, sale and distribution of goods and services
  • Negotiate and document development, supply and manufacturing agreements, software licensing agreements, equipment purchase and/or leasing agreements, nondisclosure agreements and terms and conditions of sale and purchase

        Related Attorneys: William R. Jansen 
                                      John E. Young

Employment litigation

  • Wrongful discharge litigation
  • Discrimination litigation
  • Harassment litigation
  • Covenants not to compete
  • Public accommodation litigation

        Related Attorneys:   Andrea J. Bernard

Environmental

  • Acquisitions, divestitures and development
  • Air quality issues, including NSR, PSD, NSPS, NESHAPs
  • Brownfield redevelopment
  • Enforcement proceedings and litigation
  • Environmental audits
  • Solid and hazardous waste management
  • Superfund negotiation and litigation
  • Water quality issues

           Related Attorneys:  John V. Byl 
                                          Steven C. Kohl 
                                          Scott D. Hubbard 
                                          Daniel K. DeWitt

Human Resources

  • Union election campaigns and collective bargaining
  • Grievance and arbitration procedures
  • Decertifications
  • Strikes and picket line activity
  • Wage and hour issues
  • Employee benefits
  • Contract drafting and preparation
  • Workplace violence and harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Workers’ compensation

        Related Attorneys: Anthony J. Kolenic, Jr. 
                                      Louis C. Rabaut

Immigration

  • Critical immigration issues in mergers and acquisitions
  • Visas for executives and managers of multinational companies
  • Visas for high-tech workers
  • Special issues relating to Canadian workers under NAFTA

Intellectual Property

  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Litigation of infringement actions, licensing agreements, and unfair competition and antitrust issues

        Related Attorneys: Charles E. Burpee 
                                      William P. Dani 
                                      Douglas A. Dozeman

International Business Transactions

  • Foreign acquisitions
  • Export and import sales
  • Doing business in China
  • Licensing and distributor agreements
  • International tax
  • Legal issues of foreign subsidiaries of domestic corporations

        Related Attorneys: Craig N. Meurlin 
                                      Jeffrey A. Ott 
                                      John E. Young

IT Procurement

  • Quality procurement processes
  • Software audits, including an inventory of all IT contracts
  • Form software contracts
  • Contract processes, including serving as part of the negotiating team

        Related Attorney:  Janet P. Knaus

Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Divestitures
  • Reorganizations
  • Joint ventures

        Related Attorneys: Jeffrey S. Battershall 
                                      James E. Romzek 
                                      Gregory E. Schmidt 
                                      Stephen C. Waterbury

Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations

  • TREAD Act
  • Vehicle Safety Act
  • NHTSA reporting requirements
  • Defect and noncompliance investigations
  • Recall requirements
  • Rulemaking Activities

        Related Attorney:  Christopher J. Predko

Nonroutine Securities Matters

  • Domestic and foreign securities offerings, public and private, including equity and debt
  • Financing and development of financial products
  • No action letters and interpretive advice
  • Proxy contests and solicitations
  • Compliance and regulatory issues involving Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • Securities litigation including class-action defense

        Related attorneys: Hugh H. Makens 
                                      Craig N. Meurlin 
                                      Jeffrey A. Ott

Product Liability Litigation

  • Automotive product liability
  • Class-action defense
  • Breach of warranty and lemon law
  • Automotive supplier issues, including breach of contract, supplier resourcing, purchase order conflicts and bankruptcy
  • Risk management

        Related attorneys: Douglas E. Wagner 
                                      Douglas A. Dozeman 
                                      Thomas J. Manganello 
                                      Kevin G. Dougherty 
                                      Edward J. Bardelli

Real Estate Tax Appeals

  • Appeals concerning assessed value, taxable value and tax exemptions

        Related Attorney: Christian E. Meyer

NOTICE. Although we would like to hear from you, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Also, we cannot treat unsolicited information as confidential. Accordingly, please do not send us any information about any matter that may involve you until you receive a written statement from us that we represent you.

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