* General Motors Co. will lay off nearly 700 employees at two of its manufacturing plants in Michigan under the company's restructuring plan. GM said it will cut 620 hourly employees at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant and 50 hourly and salaried employees at its Brownstown battery plant. In filings with GM's home state of Michigan, the Detroit-based company said the layoffs are set to begin Feb. 18, 2019.
* U.S. antitrust authorities cleared the planned 50-50 mobility venture between Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG, paving the way for completion of the deal by Jan. 31, 2019. The JV, which now has all required regulatory approvals, will offer multimodal and on-demand mobility with moovel and ReachNow, car-sharing service with Car2Go and DriveNow, ride-hailing service with mytaxi, Chauffeur Privé, Clever Taxi and Beat under Intelligent Apps GmbH, as well as parking and car-charging services.
* Renault SA will go ahead with naming a replacement to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s board at a shareholders meeting, Bloomberg News reported, citing board member Martin Vial, who is in charge of the body that holds French government's stake in Renault. Nissan, which was reported to have turned down Renault's call for an extraordinary shareholder meeting, told Bloomberg that it had no objection to a Renault-appointed director. The position has been vacant after the arrest of former Nissan chairman and board director Carlos Ghosn. Separately, Nissan's management was unhappy with Ghosn's U.S. push as they felt the move came at the expense of investing in Japan, The Wall Street Journal reported.
* Volkswagen AG's Spanish car brand Seat joined blockchain technology-based products and services consortium Alastria to evaluate the development of blockchain technology and seek synergies with other participating companies.
ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
* Cincinnati-based supermarket operator The Kroger Co. said it will expand a partnership with startup Nuro to deliver groceries using vehicles without drivers. Kroger is debuting the service for customers in Scottsdale, Ariz., at a single store in its Fry's Food Stores chain.
* Volkswagen AG agreed to buy AB Volvo's entire 75.1% stake in connected car company WirelessCar for 1.1 billion Swedish kronor. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019.
* Volkswagen will need to re-examine its strategy for mass producing electric vehicles following the EU's announced target of reducing CO2 emissions by 37.5% by 2030. The requirement is stricter than the German automaker's expected 30% reduction in emissions, Reuters reported, citing VW CEO Herbert Diess. The review, due in fall 2019, would possibly mean further reducing VW's combustion engine portfolio, making "significant" adjustments to its plants and requiring additional battery cell and battery factories, Diess reportedly said. These changes will reportedly make EVs form over 40% of the company's expected total vehicle sales in 2030, the executive said.
* Dan Kim, Tesla Inc.'s senior director of global sales and marketing, left the company for Airbnb Inc., Bloomberg News reported.
* Uber Technologies Inc. gained approval from the Pennsylvania government to resume autonomous vehicle testing in the state's Allegheny County. The ride-hailing firm halted its self-driving car test program in March after one of the autonomous units hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz.
* Peugeot SA-owned Opel will install about 1,300 electric vehicle charging stations across its hometown Rüsselsheim am Main, Germany, by 2020.
POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY
* The U.S. Department of Justice said Volkswagen-controlled auto-parts maker IAV GmbH agreed to plead guilty to helping with the software used in its diesel emission scandal and will pay a $35 million fine in addition to serving probation for two years under an independent corporate compliance monitor for the felony. IAV, which is 50% owned by VW, said in a release that it sees the resolution as an important step forward for the company. It is set to appear before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Jan. 18, 2019, for the plea hearing.
* The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration streamlined the review process on whether carmakers can deploy self-driving vehicles without devices such as brakes and steering wheels, Reuters reported. The regulator removed a requirement for the agency to declare a carmaker's petition complete before publishing it for public comment.
* A German court has allowed an appeal against a ban on older diesel cars from the streets of Frankfurt set to take effect in February 2019, Reuters reported. The Hesse Administrative Court in Kassel said it would admit the appeal by the federal state of Hesse against a lower court's September decision to ban diesel cars with engines of Euro V emissions standards or earlier because of "serious doubt over its validity."
* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. accepted the Japanese government's process improvement directives related to the carmaker's disclosure of improper emissions and fuel economy testing practices at its domestic facilities.
AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT
* Faurecia issued €700 million Schuldscheindarlehen, or private placement under German law, to fund its acquisition of Hitachi Ltd.'s information and entertainment subsidiary Clarion Co. Ltd. The French auto-parts maker also made an investment in ESP Consulting in a bid to improve postural comfort and other advancements in the car cockpit. The two companies will build a biosensor-based driving simulator and an environmental chamber for studying human behavior in specific climatic situations.
* French tire-maker Michelin completed its acquisition of Camso Inc. for $1.36 billion. Michelin said the acquisition could offer up to $55 million in synergies by 2021 and make it the biggest off-the-road market player.
* Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. is testing a mobility door prototype on a Range Rover Sport model that uses motion sensors and keyless entry technology to open automatically as the driver approaches the vehicle. The feature enables occupants to shut the door with an overhead button once inside the vehicle.
* China's SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd. launched its ride-hailing and other mobility services brand, Xiangdao Chuxing, Gasgoo reported. The unit reportedly will offer a technology platform, vehicle maintenance, credit financing and industrial insurance.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, Hang Seng increased 0.20% to 25,865.39, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.60% to 20,987.92.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.91% to 6,762.45, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.46% to 927.74.
On the macro front
Existing home sales report and EIA Petroleum status 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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