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Tesla to lay off 9% of workforce; Toyota pumps $1B into Singapore's GrabTaxi

TOP NEWS

* Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company is cutting its workforce by about 9%, chiefly salaried employees, but spared production workers vital for its Model 3 rollout plans. Musk said the company, which owns SolarCity Corp, also will not renew a residential sales agreement with Home Depot Inc. and instead focus on selling solar power at Tesla stores and online.

* Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. will invest $1 billion in GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based ride-hailing company, to expand the latter's range of online-to-offline services in Southeast Asia. Grab will be valued at over $10 billion after Toyota's investment, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, while one Toyota executive will be appointed to Grab's board and a Toyota employee will join Grab as an executive officer.

CARMAKERS

* Mazda Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. followed French carmaker Peugeot SA in exiting Iran to avoid repercussions from the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions against the country, Iranian radio broadcaster Radio Farda reported, quoting Valiyollah Maleki, a member of Iran's parliamentary Industries and Mines Commission. While Mazda stopped collaborating with Iranian carmaker Bahman Motors, Hyundai is set to end its tie-up with Iranian company Kerman Khodro.

* Automotive alliance partners Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. posted a 14% year-over-year gain in 2017 synergies of €5.7 billion, compared with €5 billion in 2016, on increased cost savings and sales. The alliance, which sold over 10.6 million vehicles in 2017, forecasts selling over 14 million units by the end of its Alliance 2022 mid-term plan. The three automakers are further collaborating in aftersales, quality and business development areas to secure the long-term sustainability of the group, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the alliance, said.

* Renault SA said United Arab Emirates-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group has acquired a plot of land in Pakistan where it plans to build a joint car manufacturing plant with the French automaker. Construction at the site, based at M-3 Industrial City in Faisalabad, is slated to begin in the last quarter of 2018 and will become operational in 2020.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Volkswagen AG's Spanish unit Seat SA is working on prototypes of "vehicles designed for a service," including robotaxis, and expects the first models to roll out by the end of 2018, Automotive News Europe reported, quoting Seat's head of business development Arantxa Alonso. These prototypes might not resemble a car but could be a "mixture with something else," Alonso reportedly said, adding that the company is primarily "focusing on private, end-to-end mobility."

* Hyundai Motor Co. inked a partnership with Beijing-based artificial intelligence startup DeepGlint, which specializes in deep learning technologies and 3D image analysis, The Korea Herald reported. The South Korean automaker reportedly will open an open innovation center in Beijing by 2018-end and will join Baidu Inc.'s open autonomous driving platform Apollo. Hyundai Motor affiliate Kia Motors Corp. also unveiled a voice recognition-based music streaming infotainment system, to be fitted on Kia cars in China from 2019, and launched its future mobility strategy involving electric, autonomous and connected vehicles, the newspaper reported.

* Chinese electric vehicle maker Kandi Technologies Group Inc. said it will bring a prototype batch of its Model EX3 and Model K22 EVs before Aug. 10 to assess the U.S. market. Kandi unit Zhejiang JiHeKang Electric Vehicle Sales Co. Ltd. entered into a sales agreement with Dallas-based automotive retailer Sportsman Country LLC, which Kandi bought May 31.

* Chinese carmaker Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Stock Co. Ltd. will invest 3 billion yuan into its unit Chongqing Jinkang New Energy Vehicle Co. Ltd. to boost Jinkang New Energy's battery electric vehicle program and to make vehicles that use other newer energy sources, Gasgoo reported.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. launched its cloud-based internet-to-vehicle platform called OceanConnect that can analyze vehicle and driving behavior using big data technologies to help third-party content and applications to build around an automobile manufacturer's system, as well as allow vehicles to communicate with each other and their environment using vehicle-to-everything sensor technology.

* Volkswagen AG's Porsche sports car unit began an app-based digital charging station search service that can locate an available charging station and its rates in real time. The Porsche Charging Service app, which also can be used by hybrid or electric vehicle owners who do not own a Porsche, is available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* China's auto sales, including trucks and buses, in May rose 9.6% year over year to 2.3 million vehicles, propelled by demand for electric and hybrid models, which more than doubled to 102,000 vehicles, the Associated Press reported, citing the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. China's total vehicle sales year-to-date rose 5.1% year over year to 9.9 million units, it added.

TRUCKS AND MOTORCYCLES

* Bus transportation service provider Tide Buss AS ordered 25 of AB Volvo's 7900 series electric buses, the largest such supply contract for the Swedish truck and bus maker, to be used in the city of Trondheim, Norway, beginning August 2019. Volvo will pay for all vehicle and battery maintenance expenses at a fixed monthly cost as part of the contract.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng lost 1.22% to 30,725.15, while the Nikkei 225 rose 0.38% to 22,966.38.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 gained 0.45% to 7,738.39, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.43% to 1,066.63.

On the macro front

The MBA Mortgage Applications, PPI-FD, Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, EIA Petroleum Status, FOMC Meeting Announcement, FOMC Forecasts and Fed Chair Press Conference are due out today.

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