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Ford suspends F-150 production; China stalls on US imports

TOP NEWS

* Ford Motor Co. confirmed it suspended production of F-150 pickup truck at Kansas City, Mo., and the Dearborn, Mich., assembly plants after an explosion and fire completely shut down critical parts supplier Meridian Lightweight Technologies. Ford F-Series Super Duty production also was down at its plant in Louisville, Ky. The company expects the shortage to negatively impact on its near-term results, but its full-year guidance was unchanged. The fire also triggered smaller production disruptions to other vehicle manufacturers, including General Motors Co.; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV; Daimler AG; and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or BMW AG, Reuters reported.

* Ford Motor Co.'s cars are being subjected to extra checks at Chinese ports amid a looming trade dispute with the U.S., Reuters reported, citing three people with knowledge of the matter. A spokeswoman for Ford, which imports most of its vehicles to the country, said the company is "closely monitoring" the matter. Some of the SUVs made in the U.S. by German automakers BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz also reportedly are being held up.

CARMAKERS

* South Korea said General Motors Co. would not be allowed to sell any of its 77% stake in GM Korea until 2023 and must maintain an over 35% ownership of its beleaguered local unit between 2023 and 2028 as part of a restructuring deal with the South Korean government, Reuters reported. As part of the $7 billion deal to be announced May 11, the Detroit automaker will set up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in the country and purchase more auto parts from the domestic market for its global operations, the country's industry ministry reportedly said.

* Suzuki Motor Corp. forecast a 5% year-over-year dip in net income at ¥205 billion for fiscal 2018 ending March 31, 2019, on a stronger yen and an increase in research and development expenses, while expecting a slight increase in net sales, primarily due to its India operations. The Japanese automaker's net sales of the fiscal year ended March 31 was ¥3.757 trillion, up 18.5% year over year, and posted a net income of ¥215.7 billion, up 34.9% year-over-year. The diluted EPS for fiscal 2017 was ¥473.74.

* Toyota Motor Corp. plans to up its total research and development and capital spending to ¥2.45 trillion in the fiscal year 2019 to cope with the shift in new-generation technology in the automotive industry. The Japanese automaker earmarked ¥1.080 trillion for R&D and expects ¥1.370 trillion to be used for capital expenditures. It spent ¥1.064 trillion in R&D and ¥1.303 trillion in capital expenditure in the fiscal year 2018.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Activist firm CtW Investment Group wrote a letter to Tesla Inc.'s investors urging them not to re-elect three of the carmaker's directors and pushed the company's board to "raise its game." The letter dated May 9 said venture capital investor Antonio Gracias, Kimbal Musk, brother of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch "exemplify the company's failure to evolve" and should not be re-elected to the board. CtW said Tesla had failed to meet its production and profit targets over the past year.

* Ohio became the latest state to allow automakers to test driverless cars on public roads. It comes after Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order allowing companies to do so. Companies have to register their vehicles with the state's new Drive Ohio registry before testing. The vehicles have to meet certain safety requirements and should be capable of complying with Ohio traffic regulations, according to a statement posted on the Ohio governor's website.

* Ford Motor Co. expanded a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle pilot involving its Transit PHEV van to Valencia, Spain. The pilot, already operational in London, will examine the use of small and medium fleets of the Transit vans, expected for mass production in 2019, in city driving conditions.

REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* BMW Group is recalling 312,000 cars of its BMW 1 Series, the 3 Series, the Z4 and its X1 petrol and diesel models made between March 2007 and August 2011 to correct an electrical defect that made its cars stall without notice, BBC reported. The recall expands the German automaker's recall of 36,410 petrol cars in 2017.

* The German cabinet approved a draft law that would make it easier for diesel car owners to join a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen AG, which in 2015 admitted to using illegal software to cheat diesel emissions tests, Reuters reported. Around two million diesel car owners in Germany could join class-action lawsuits to seek compensation from Volkswagen, Justice Minister Katarina Barley reportedly said.

* The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, said it will probe a May 8 fatal car crash in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., involving a Tesla Inc. 2014 Model S, although the agency preliminarily ruled out the electric car maker's autopilot driver assistance technology to be a factor in the accident. The NTSB, which also is investigating another Tesla crash in California, will rope in local first responder agencies, involved law enforcement agencies and the company as participants in its inquiry.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* U.K. auto parts maker Delphi Technologies PLC raised its revenue and sales outlook for 2018 after it posted an adjusted profit of $1.30 per share in the first quarter, beating analysts' consensus estimate of $1.15 per share compiled by S&P Capital IQ. The company now forecasts 2018 revenue to be in the range of $5 billion to $5.2 billion, up $100 million from its prior guidance range and expects adjusted EPS for the year to be in the range of $4.65 to $4.95, up 15 cents from its previous range.

* Chinese automotive battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., or CATL, will open a Japan-focused sales center in Yokohama in 2018 to boost its presence in the country, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The company forecasts building a capacity of 50 gigawatt-hours to become one of the world's largest battery makers by 2020, more than double its 2017 production figures, the Nikkei reported.

* Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd named Carsten Weiss as vice president to oversee the South Korean auto parts maker's in-vehicle infotainment software development, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Weiss was previously with German peer Continental Aktiengesellschaft, where he reportedly worked on telematics, infotainment systems and vehicle software platforms.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Volkswagen AG delivered 519,600 vehicles globally in April, up 11% year over year from April 2017 when the German automaker sold 458,000 units. The growth was driven by a 32.2% year over year sales growth in South America and a 13% year over year rise in European sales.

* Car service station operator Vivo Energy PLC said it got approval to list all of its 1.20 billion ordinary share capital on the London Stock Exchange in connection with its initial public offering. The company, whose stock will trade under the ticker VVO, has applied for the admission of another tranche of 1,798,866 shares to the exchange.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.89% to 30,809.22, while the Nikkei 225 was up 0.39% to 22,497.18.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.35% to 7,635.86, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.16% to 1,068.16.

On the macro front

The consumer price index, the jobless claims report, the EIA natural gas report, the treasury budget report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.

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