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Toyota recalls over 2 million cars; Musk mocks SEC as court reviews settlement

TOP NEWS

* Toyota Motor Corp. has issued safety recalls for more than 2.2 million of its Prius hybrid vehicles worldwide, including nearly 1 million in North America and 1.2 million in Japan, over a hybrid system defect that could cause cars to lose power and stall. The move comes about a month after the company issued a recall for nearly 1 million Prius-branded vehicles over fire risk.

* Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk mocked the SEC through a tweet Oct. 4, hours after a federal court judge ordered him and the securities regulator to justify their securities fraud settlement, Reuters reported. "Just want to [sic] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work," Musk wrote on Twitter. Musk went on to criticize index managers like BlackRock, who he accused of making "excessive" profit from short lending "while pretending to charge low rates" for "passive" index tracking. He added that short selling should be made illegal.

CARMAKERS

* The board of General Motors Co.'s beleaguered South Korean unit proposed to spin off GM Korea's design and engineering divisions into a separate entity, which will focus on design and development of the Detroit carmaker's midsize SUVs, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a GM Korea spokesman. The spinoff, consisting of a design center, a research center and a powertrain facility, is set for shareholder vote Oct. 19. However, Korea Development Bank, which owns 17% of the restructured GM Korea, reportedly has filed an injunction with a local court against the meeting.

* Toyota Motor has "more or less completed" all preparations for localizing production of its luxury Lexus cars intended for sale in China, Reuters reported, quoting four Toyota insiders. The Japanese automaker is awaiting a go-ahead from Toyota management for the move. A Toyota spokesman told Reuters that the automaker "always weigh the need for localizing production" as part of "the Lexus brand's future in China," although adding that Toyota does not have any specific plans "at this point in time."

* Renault SA aims to make India as an export base for emerging markets as the French carmaker expects to double its market share in the country to 5% by 2021, chiefly through the introduction of more mass-market models, India's Mint reported, citing a senior Renault executive. The company reportedly will procure over 95% of car parts from Indian suppliers as part of that strategy.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Consumer Reports ranked General Motors-owned Cadillac's Super Cruise driver assistance program above Tesla's Autopilot, followed by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s ProPilot Assist and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.-owned Volvo Cars' Pilot Assist as part of the U.S. consumer-focused magazine's first review of partially automated driving systems. Meanwhile, Tesla postponed a release of the latest version of its Autopilot "by a few more weeks," Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

* Volvo Cars' performance electric car brand Polestar produced the first series of 34 road-going verification prototype cars, Polestar 1, at its Gothenburg, Sweden, plant. The handmade carbon fiber models will be used for crash tests, weather testing and on-road assessment in the run-up to their series production at the Polestar production center in Chengdu, China, the Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.-owned entity said.

* Nissan Motor projects electrified vehicles to make up a third of its volume in Australia as part of the Japanese carmaker's ongoing midterm plan, Stephen Lester, Nissan Australia's managing director, said in Sydney.

POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* The U.S. Department of Transportation released updated guidance for self-driving vehicles as it seeks to cover more types of vehicles at a time when companies are expanding development of automated driving systems. The big difference between the new guidance and the version released in September 2017 is that the department is moving forward with the assumption that a human is not required to control a vehicle. The guidance also incorporates "all modes" of transportation, not just cars, according to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

* Tesla Inc. released its first quarterly safety report that recorded one accident or crash-like event in the third quarter for every 3.34 million miles, driven using the electric-car maker's Autopilot driver-assistance feature, and one such incident for every 1.92 million miles driven without Autopilot. The company said the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration registered an automobile crash every 492,000 miles. Tesla said it plans to release accident figures every quarter.

* The European Commission cleared Slovakia's €125 million in grants to Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.'s proposed €1.4 billion car facility in the Nitra region of Slovakia as the aid was deemed necessary to prevent the Tata Motors Ltd.-owned British luxury-car maker from moving operations to Mexico. Margrethe Vestager, the European Union Competition Commissioner, said the investment aid is "in line" with EU State aid rules and added that the measure "will contribute to job creation and to the economic development of a disadvantaged region without unduly distorting competition."

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* American Tire Distributors Inc. said it entered into a definitive agreement with about 95% of its bondholders to cut the company's debt by about $1.1 billion as part of the North Carolina-based replacement tire supplier's bankruptcy proceedings, first announced Sept. 4. American Tire said the Chapter 11 reorganization will have no impact on its distribution network. The company also secured $250 million in new financing to fund the process and said it expected to pay manufacturer partners and vendors in full for their existing claims.

* Volkswagen AG struck a deal with South Korean lithium battery maker LG Chem Ltd. for supply of electric vehicle battery to the German carmaker, due for the beginning of 2019, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a regulatory filing. The amount and battery prices could vary, LG Chem, which supplies EV batteries to General Motors, Volvo Cars, Renault, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp., reportedly said.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Volkswagen's luxury car unit Audi reported global sales of about 139,150 cars in September, which dropped 22% year over year from 178,414 units a year earlier, as several of VW Group's top models had failed to comply with the latest Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test, or WLTP, rules. Audi's sales in its home market Germany slumped 69.4% year over year to 6,866 vehicles. Nevertheless, the carmaker expects overall 2018 deliveries to be at par with 2017 levels. Separately, Volkswagen said it got WLTP certification "for volume sellers for all of our 14 models" and would be able to offer almost all of its models with WLTP certification by 2018-end, Reuters reported.

* Peugeot SA-owned Opel and Vauxhall occupied a combined 7% market share for the month of September in the passenger cars and light commercial vehicles segment in Europe, up 0.8 percentage points year over year. This is the two brands' highest monthly market share since March 2016, and the highest in September since 2014, which Peugeot attributed to the timely implementation of the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure emissions norms.

TRUCKS AND MOTORCYCLES

* Honda Motor Co. Ltd. forecasts producing 7 million two-wheelers per year in India in 2020 as the Japanese automaker earmarked 6.3 billion Indian rupees for a new scooter production line at Honda's Gujarat-based plant, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The investment will raise output of the facility by 50% to 1.8 million units when it starts operations reportedly in fiscal 2020.

* China's Niu Technologies applied with the SEC for the issue of 500,000 American Depositary Shares, or ADS, with each consisting of 1 class A ordinary share of the electric-scooter maker, as part of its up to $150 million U.S. IPO.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng slipped 0.19% to 26,572.57, and the Nikkei 225 declined 0.80% to 23,783.72.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.49% to 7,382.69, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.31% to 1,044.33.

On the macro front

The employment situation report, the international trade report, the consumer credit report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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