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Automotive

Overview

Advising clients in the automotive industry is a core strength of Varnum. We guide our clients through legal issues in ways that support their goals for growth, efficiency, speed-to-market and quality. We work extensively with automotive suppliers, including both Tier 1 suppliers and those further down the supply chain.

Our automotive industry team includes attorneys experienced in the following:

  • NHTSA regulatory advice and compliance
  • OEM/supplier contracts and negotiations
  • Supplier disputes
  • Product warranty, product liability and recall
  • Import/export issues, tariffs and sanctions compliance
  • Acquisitions, divestitures and joint venture transactions
  • Software and other licensing agreements
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Securing supply in bankruptcy and distressed situations

Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Experience

Varnum's autonomous and connected vehicle team is led by a former autonomous vehicle counsel for a major OEM and possesses both unparalleled industry knowledge and experience in this space. Our team includes attorneys who have worked closely with product development and business operation teams, providing counsel on laws and regulations addressing federal motor vehicle safety standards, product liability, transportation services, customer user experience and vehicle connectivity. We also have significant public policy experience in this area on both the state and federal levels. 

We additionally support a wide range of commercial transactions related to autonomous and connected vehicle development including startup and venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, supplier, commercial partnership and industry collaboration agreements. Our IP lawyers also include specialists that can assist with any actions necessary to protect IP rights involved with emerging technology. We also have extensive experience addressing cybersecurity and privacy issues/risks for autonomous and connected vehicles.

What Can Varnum's Automotive Law Attorneys Do for You?

Our industry awareness benefits you through our knowledge of compliance requirements of the NHTSA. We can help you navigate the complex requirements of the TREAD Act. From early warning reporting requirements to equipment defect notification, we can show you how to satisfy the requirements of NHTSA regulation.

The automotive industry attorneys at Varnum have experience in sophisticated areas of the law and are supported by Varnum's entire staff of attorneys. This full-service approach provides you with the kind of in-depth experience on a range of issues that few other firms can match. From contract analysis to human resource and immigration issues, from acquisitions and joint ventures to international law and environmental compliance, we can provide the experience you need to stay competitive in today's—and tomorrow's—business world.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Scott Huizenga at 616/336-6822 or sahuizenga@varnumlaw.com

Experience

Experience

Varnum Represents Fabco Holdings, Inc. in Sale to Meritor

Varnum Represents Tier I Automotive Supplier Shareholders in Sale

Corporate

  • Represented a Tier 1 automotive supplier on multiple matters involving NHTSA investigations and recalls. Advised client regarding potential reporting requirements under FMVSS with respect to NHTSA investigation and potential recall.
  • Represented global leader in specialty chassis and vehicle design, manufacturing and assembly in its acquisition of a fire apparatus manufacturer. Negotiated and structured the purchase agreement, assisted with due diligence, including environmental diligence on four facilities, and advised on employee benefits and executive compensation matters.
  • Acquisition of designer and fabricator of highly engineered material handling systems for the automotive industry on behalf of publicly-traded company.
  • Sale by a large Tier 1 automotive supplier of five facilities in multiple states and Mexico.
  • Negotiated long-term supply agreements among multiple sole source suppliers to protect for future sourcing needs.
  • Advised companies on navigating complex economic sanctions programs, including the provision of advice on day-to-day compliance with OFAC and other sanctions related to trade with Cuba, Iran and Russia/Ukraine.
  • Counseled companies with respect to U.S. Customs and Border Protection requirements and provided assistance in connection with audits and reviews, country of origin labeling, tariff classifications and other import-related issues.

 Labor and Employment

  • Currently providing all employment law advice, counsel and employment litigation defense to a Tier 1 automotive supplier with plants in Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky. Recent work includes review and revision of union and non-union handbooks as well as anti-harassment/diversity and inclusion training for supervisors and employees.
  • For 15 years prior to its bankruptcy, provided the full gamut of labor and employment services to a Tier 1 automotive supplier at its locations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Mississippi, as well as plants in Mexico and Europe.
  • Worked with global manufacturer of motor vehicle mirrors on union avoidance strategy that convinced employees to reject the UAW.
  • Successfully defended three UAW organizational campaigns at Tier 1 automotive supplier of lighting technology and prevailed in the NLRB-conducted election.
  • Successfully resolved unfair labor practice charges for motor vehicle parts and accessories manufacturer.
  • Represented nationwide logistics broker in pursuing complex, multimillion dollar litigation against competitor and several former high-level employees after competitor and employees solicited client's employees and customers, misappropriating significant amounts of confidential information. The case settled on terms very favorable to the client.
  • Collective and class action suit under FLSA and state law alleging failure to pay for all time spent donning and doffing. Defeated plaintiffs' request for collective action certification; class claims dismissed.

Environmental

  • Represented numerous clients in acquisitions of large manufacturing facilities in Michigan involving environmental site assessment activities, evaluation of environmental response actions, due care obligations and other related issues.
  • Represented hundreds of clients seeking to obtain liability protection under Michigan’s Baseline Environmental Assessment (BEA) program and assisted in applying for and obtaining Brownfield funding and other financial incentives.
  • In conjunction with the construction or acquisition of manufacturing facilities we have assisted numerous clients in obtaining local zoning approvals, environmental permits and other applicable permits and licenses.

Immigration

  • Represent multinational company in transfer of key executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees from global subsidiaries to U.S.
  • Represent auto supplier in transfer of engineers and accountants to U.S. facility.
  • Represent small to large employers in processing work permits for specialty occupation employees including engineers, computer systems analysts, accountants and scientists.
  • Represent employers in completing permanent residence process for foreign employees.

Intellectual Property

  • Currently representing various automotive suppliers and consumer products companies in all areas of domestic and international patent prosecution, focused primarily in the electrical, software and mechanical arts.
  • Currently representing numerous companies in management and new filings of both domestic and international trademarks, including monitoring competitor trademark filings and maintaining existing trademarks portfolios, where some portfolios exceed 100 trademarks.
  • Engaged in annually renewable agreement with top office furniture manufacturer to monitor patent, design patent, trademark and trade dress infringement in the online marketplace and handle subsequent enforcement proceedings.
  • Ongoing work with young and startup companies to evaluate new technologies and develop patent filing and protections strategies, including handling of patent filings and prosecution.

Litigation

  • Conducted internal investigation for automotive supplier and secured declinations of criminal prosecution in grand jury investigations conducted by two U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
  • Conducted an internal investigation and represented foreign auto supplier in Department of Justice Antitrust Division “Auto Parts” investigation, and also represented company in federal class actions brought by auto dealers and consumers.
  • Representation of more than 150 companies in litigation against Michigan's largest insurer, including appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Every case – averaging $1 million each – has either been successfully resolved or remains pending.
  • Successfully defended and pursued claims for subcontractors for extra work, delays and labor productivity impacts on wastewater treatment plant, educational facilities, hospitals, and commercial and industrial facilities, including OEM automotive plant.

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