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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

The students entering college are not millennials. The next generation, Generation Z, has arrived. The oldest in the group are in their early 20s.

Not only have they never known a world without the Internet, some have had smartphones since middle school.

And for this group, memes, animated GIFs and emojis are second nature, says Geoff Nunberg, a linguist who does features on language on NPR's Fresh Air.

Pages