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Nissan fails to replace Ghosn; Tesla, Mercedes-Benz to cut prices in China

TOP NEWS

* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s board could not pick a successor for ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn at a Dec. 17 meeting as the advisory panel tasked with identifying a successor sought more time. The Japanese carmaker's board also approved setting up a special committee, comprising external independent experts, to improve corporate governance. Separately, Philippe Lagayette, Renault SA's lead independent director, denied media reports that the French carmaker was planning to replace Ghosn. According to reports, the French carmaker and the government were considering Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard as Ghosn's replacement, Reuters reported.

* Tesla Inc. and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz brand will cut prices of their cars in China following Beijing's decision to suspend tariffs, according to media reports. Tesla lowered its prices for Model S, Model X and Model 3 in China by up to 105,000 Chinese yuan, while the German carmaker will cut prices by up to 135,000 yuan until the end of March 2019. Ford Motor Co. said it was "very encouraged" by China's announcement to reduce tariffs to 15%.

CARMAKERS

* General Motors Co. said 2,800 hourly workers will be impacted by plant closures in Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Canada. The U.S. employees will have the option to transfer to other locations. The company said there are 2,700 job opportunities available at other GM locations and that 1,100 employees have already volunteered to transfer and 1,200 are eligible to retire, according to a news release.

* Renault's deputy CEO Thierry Bollore, in a letter, urged its alliance partner Nissan to call an extraordinary general meeting of the Japanese carmaker's shareholders "as promptly as practicable," the Financial Times reported. The letter reportedly said that indictment of Nissan "creates significant risks to Renault, as Nissan's largest shareholder, and to the stability of our industrial alliance."

* Toyota expects worldwide production and sales to continue to grow at 2% year over year in 2019 compared with a similar estimated increase in production and sales in 2018. In 2019, the carmaker expects to produce 10.86 million vehicles and sell 10.76 million vehicles worldwide. In 2018, the company forecast production of nearly 10.62 million vehicles and sales of 10.55 million vehicles.

* Hyundai Motor Co. said it will team up with Global Group of Algeria to produce its commercial vehicles in the country from 2020. The pair will also establish a plant in Batna city, where Hyundai will produce 6,500 Xcient, Mighty, Solati and County vehicles annually.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Chinese electric-vehicle maker NIO Inc. said it is not worried by tariff cuts by China as it reported over 2,059 ES8 models sold in October in China compared to Tesla's 211 for the month, the South China Morning Post reported. The Tesla challenger aims to target a larger consumer base with its second model, ES6, which was launched on Dec. 15.

POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* German state Baden-Wuerttemberg is planning to sue Volkswagen AG over the carmaker's involvement in emissions cheating by year-end, Reuters reported, citing newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. A state finance ministry spokeswoman added that it is its "budgetary duty to sue for damages," though VW said it had no knowledge of the claims.

* The European Commission has approved Toyota Motor Corp. and SoftBank Group Corp.'s plan to form an on-demand mobility service joint venture in Japan. The commission ruled the new company, Monet Technologies Corp., would raise no competition concerns as it will be active in Japan and has no foreseen activities in the European market.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Uber Technologies Inc. welcomed the British government's plans to legislate zero-hours contracts, which offer no guarantees on working hours, in a bid to help preserve the business model of gig-economy companies such as the ride-hailing service, Reuters reported. The government said its decision to legislate follows the findings of a government-commissioned review that concluded that the flexibility of "gig working" was not incompatible with access to employment protections. However, unions criticized the plan. British labor union Unite said workers in an insecure economy need more than a right to suggest contracts and hours.

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Automakers optimistic about China tariff reduction; analysts skeptical

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng retreated 0.03% to 26,087.98. The Nikkei 225 rose 0.62% to 21,506.88.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE was down 0.47% to 6,812.80, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.69% to 936.76.

On the macro front

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the Housing Market Index and the Treasury International Capital report are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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