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BMW to accelerate autonomous car tests; Musk's $2.6B pay plan approved

TOP NEWS

* Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or BMW Group, will continue its autonomous vehicle testing program despite the death of an Arizona woman who was hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber Technologies Inc. BMW Group, which plans to launch autonomous driving in the BMW iNEXT in 2021, also vowed to double the size of its testing fleet to around 80 vehicles this year, Chairman Harald Krüger said in a statement.

* Tesla Inc. shareholders approved Elon Musk's 12-tranche $2.6 billion pay plan, which will be tied to the electric car maker's market capitalization. The first tranche of 1% of total outstanding shares as of Jan. 21 will be issued to Musk if Tesla reaches $100 billion market cap. Tesla's current market cap is $53.47 billion. Subsequent tranches vest with $50 billion increases in market capitalization. To be eligible for each of the 12 tranches of the equity compensation plan, the co-founder, chairman and CEO would need to be at the helm of the company at the time each milestone is reached.

CAR MAKERS

* Porsche Automobil Holding SE appointed Porsche Deutschland GmbH CEO Jens Puttfarcken as the president and CEO of Porsche China and Porsche Hong Kong. China is the largest market by sales for the company. A successor for Puttfarcken, who will take up his new role from July, is yet to be decided, Porsche said.

* Tata Motors Ltd.-owned British luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover has inked a deal with BlackBerry Ltd. for its infotainment and security software suites, according to a news release. Under the deal, BlackBerry will license its QNX software for cars and Certicom security technology to JLR.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD Co. Ltd. will open a battery recycling plant in Shanghai in April as it looks to combat the rise in waste and limit the rising cost of raw materials, such as lithium and cobalt, Reuters reported, citing company spokeswoman Mia Gu.

REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* Ian Robertson, BMW Group's special representative to Britain, told a European Parliament committee that he is "very, very concerned" that only a "free-trade agreement" could solve other nontariff problems for BMW Group following Brexit, Reuters reported. "There would be customs checks, there would be administration, there would be still delays at the border, there would be questions around local content, there would be questions around regulation," Robertson reportedly said.

* South Korean Vice Finance Minister Ko Hyoung-kwon told reporters that there is tension in the due diligence between General Motors Co.'s local unit and its second-largest shareholder Korea Development Bank, Reuters reported. GM Korea, to which the state-owned KDB agreed to offer short-term loans to mitigate a cash crisis, is finding it "difficult to share information about global strategies" with the bank, the minister reportedly said.

* The South Korean transport ministry said that BMW Group, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Toyota Motor Corp. are voluntarily recalling more than 5,000 vehicles to fix faulty parts, Yonhap News Agency reported. The five companies plan to recall 29 models totaling 5,137 vehicles, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport reportedly said in a statement.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Turnaround company Melrose Industries PLC reached an agreement with the pension scheme trustees of British engineering firm GKN PLC to fund GKN's pension programs by up to £1 billion in cash. Melrose is looking to persuade GKN investors to accept its hostile bid for GKN, which has asked shareholders to reject Melrose's "entirely opportunistic" offer.

* Jan Carlson, chairman and CEO of automotive safety supplier Autoliv Inc., will take over as CEO of Veoneer Inc., following the electronics unit's planned spinoff from Autoliv in the third quarter. Mikael Bratt, president of the surviving passive safety business, will take on additional duties as Autoliv CEO following Carlson's move, effective April 1. Johan Löfvenholm, president of Autoliv's electronics business, will become Veoneer's COO after the spinoff.

* Peugeot SA entered into an agreement with Japanese auto parts maker Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. to make EAT6 automatic gearboxes, fitted in its Citroën, Opel and other models, in its Valenciennes, France plant. Previously, the 6-speed gearboxes were made in Japan. Peugeot also will ramp up production of its 3-cylinder Turbo PureTech petrol engine in Tichy, Poland and Szentgotthárd, Hungary, beginning 2019, as well as start producing electric motors at its Trémery, France, facility from 2019.

* Auto parts maker Dana Inc. will supply drivelines to General Motors' Chevrolet Silverado 4500HD, 5500HD and 6500HD chassis cab trucks, which will go into production in late 2018. The medium-duty cab trucks will be available in two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations, Dana said in a news release.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Toyota Motor said it will launch April 2 a new premium-class car rental service in Japan offering Lexus models at Toyota Rent-a-Car locations. Service will commence at select locations in 14 prefectures.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 1.09% to 31,071.05, and the Nikkei 225 was up 0.99% to 21,591.99.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.60% to 6,996.71, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.92% to 1,014.11.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the FHFA house price index, the PMI Composite Flash report, the leading indicators report, the EIA natural gas report, the Kansas City Fed manufacturing index, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.

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