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Ghosn set to be released; US defers passage of self-driving car bill to 2019

TOP NEWS

* Carlos Ghosn, the Renault SA chairman and CEO and former Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. chairman and his aide Greg Kelly could be released as early as Dec. 20 after the Tokyo District Court rejected prosecutors' request for extending their detention terms over financial misconduct allegations, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported. Tokyo prosecutors have appealed the ruling, Reuters reported. Separately, Nissan said its CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, held a "positive" and "productive" one-on-one with Renault's deputy CEO Thierry Bollore in Amsterdam, the first such meeting of the Alliance partners since Ghosn's detention in Japan, Reuters reported.

* The U.S. Congress will not consider a proposal that aims to hasten the rollout of self-driving cars before it adjourns for the year, Reuters reported, citing Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., who chairs the Commerce Committee, and Gary Peters, D-Mich. Industry body Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers reportedly termed the delay in clearance of the bill "a setback." Congress also will not be able to take up a proposal to extend a $7,500 tax break for electric vehicles, a move backed by the likes of Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co., according to the report.

CARMAKERS

* Volkswagen AG revised its remuneration system for the top management, doing away with personal performance bonuses and providing for reducing or canceling an executive's variable remuneration in case of individual wrongdoing. Also, group targets will determine at least half of the variable target pay, compared with only a third at present, as part of the new pay structure effective fiscal 2019.

* Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG are in early talks to cooperate in the making of primary, non-brand-specific auto parts, as well as exploring other areas such as sharing vehicle platforms, batteries and autonomous-car technology, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. A time frame for any definite announcement is unclear, and both carmakers reportedly refused comments.

* Toyota Motor Corp.'s North America unit said it partnered with peer-to-peer safety platform Carma Project to encourage owners of cars with faulty Takata airbags to get their vehicles repaired. The program will offer incentives to persons who alert hard-to-reach Toyota vehicle owners about recalling Takata airbags as consumer response to fixing these potentially life-threatening airbags continues to be lower than hoped, Toyota said.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Renault said it bought a "significant" stake in the electric-vehicle unit of Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors Corp. Ltd. to strengthen the French carmaker's presence in China. The EV unit, JMEV, expects to sell 50,000 units in 2018. The deal is scheduled to close in 2019, subject to review by relevant Chinese authorities.

* Hyundai Motor Co. will build a plant in Indonesia with a capacity of about 250,000 vehicles, including for electric vehicles, as part of the South Korean automaker's approximately $880 million investment in the country, Reuters reported, citing Indonesian Industry Deputy Minister Harjanto. The minister reportedly said Hyundai will export 53% of the planned capacity mostly to Southeast Asia and Australia, while the remaining would be sold domestically. A Hyundai spokeswoman said the company "did not have immediate comments" about its Indonesia plans.

* Tesla is unveiling a program called Instant Drive Away, which enables buying and delivering a Tesla car in five minutes, Electrek reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. Inventory vehicles reportedly are eligible for the program, and buyers need to purchase with cash, leasing or Tesla financing.

POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* The French government will join Germany in offering financial support to European companies aspiring to produce lithium-ion battery cells in a bid to reduce dependence on imports from Asia as electric cars gain increasing market share. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and German Energy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed on a strategy to foment battery cell production during a meeting in Paris. They hope to identify industrial consortiums eligible for the capital injection before the end of March 2019.

* Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism asked district courts in Tokyo and Yokohama to impose administrative fines on Nissan and Subaru Corp. for altering vehicle emissions data, Kyodo News reported. Nissan and Subaru are among the Japanese automakers that earlier this year admitted to inappropriately altering emissions and fuel efficiency data during final vehicle tests. If the courts grant the request, the companies will be fined ¥300,000 or less per vehicle.

* Daimler will recall 127,847 Mercedes cars to replace their R134a coolants, Reuters reported, citing the trade publication kfz-betrieb. The carmaker, which reportedly informed European regulators in late November, reportedly was not immediately available for comment.

* The U.K. Court of Appeal reaffirmed a 2016 judgment that ruled Uber Technologies Inc. should treat its drivers in the country as employees, entitling them to minimum wage and other benefits, CNBC reported. Uber, which said drivers stand to lose "some of the freedom and flexibility" if treated as the firm's workers, reportedly plan to appeal with the Supreme Court against the ruling.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Japanese electronics-product manufacturer Nidec Corp. plans to set up facilities for making electric-vehicle motors in Poland and Mexico in addition to the one under development in China, as it looks to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of U.S.-China tariff dispute, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing Nidec president and COO Hiroyuki Yoshimoto.

* Aftermarket car accessories and restoration parts company Drake Automotive Group Inc. bought Mesa, Ariz.-based Addictive Desert Designs for an undisclosed amount. Addictive Desert Designs manufactures off-road bumpers and other aftermarket accessories for trucks produced by Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, Nissan, Ram and Toyota, among other brands.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Volkswagen's namesake brand expects about €1 billion in revenue by 2025 from its cloud-based marketplace that caters to extra vehicle functions and online services, Bloomberg News reported. Juergen Stackmann, VW brand head of sales, reportedly forecasts the German automaker to start generating revenue from its connected vehicle program, comprising parking, car-sharing and delivery services, from about 2020 as the company transitions into a transportation service provider from an automaker.

TRUCKS AND MOTORCYCLES

* Volkswagen's Scania truck brand has been testing since August a new autonomous transport system at Rio Tinto's Dampier Salt operations in Western Australia. The companies plan to add more autonomous Scania trucks in subsequent phases of the project to develop vehicle-vehicle awareness and intelligent fleet supervisory controls.

* Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has agreed to increase its shareholding in Finnish heavy machine-maker Sampo-Rosenlew Oy to 49.04% from 35%, according to a news release. Under the latest share subscription agreement, Mahindra agreed to subscribe to 822 equity shares and 192 convertible preference shares of Sampo for a total of €4.7 million in cash.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng fell 0.94% to 25,623.53, while the Nikkei 225 was down 2.84% to 20,392.58.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.26% to 6,748.23, and the Euronext 100 was down 1.14% to 917.00.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook survey, the leading indicators report, the Energy Information Administration natural gas report, the fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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