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Carmakers cut China output on slowing sales; Tesla sets up Shanghai leasing unit

TOP NEWS

* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is cutting down its output in China by about 30,000 units per month from December 2018 to March 2019 in a bid to reduce inventory amid falling vehicle sales in the country, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Mazda Motor Corp. reportedly is also mulling an output cut by up to 20% in the six months through June 2019 as overall plant utilization rates in China drop to just over 60%, according to the report. Chinese carmakers China FAW Group Corp. and China Changan Automobile Group Co. Ltd. are also said to have reduced output. Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. have already adopted similar measures in the country, while Volkswagen AG had to cut only its output in November.

* Tesla Inc. registered a wholly owned financial leasing unit in Shanghai's free trade zone as part of the U.S. electric-car maker's China strategy, Reuters reported, citing the country's National Enterprise Information Publicity System. The subsidiary, which will focus on car leasing and consultancy, was registered with a capital of $30 million and listed Tesla's China head Zhu Xiaotong as its legal representative. The company declined to comment on the matter.

CARMAKERS

* Volkswagen AG's premium unit Audi will launch 13 new models in China in 2019, beginning with the Audi A6L on Jan. 15, 2019, Gasgoo reported, citing a local media outlet.

* Indian carmaker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. plans to cease operating a diesel engine assembly facility in Gurgaon, India, preferring instead to either convert the product line to make gasoline engines or add another gasoline assembly line to its Manesar-based site amid falling sales of diesel cars in the country, India's Mint reported, citing three people directly aware of the development. The Suzuki Motor Corp.-owned unit reportedly also will stop making and using Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's 1.3-liter diesel engine and replace it with Suzuki's 1.5-liter diesel engine. Maruti did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

* The Saudi Arabian businessman to whom former Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. chairman Carlos Ghosn is accused of illegally transferring $14.7 million from 2009 to 2012 is Khaled Al Juffali, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Al Juffali is a board member of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and became the chairman of a regional Nissan joint venture called Nissan Gulf in October 2008. The transaction reportedly was facilitated by Japan's Shinsei Bank, which treated Ghosn's investment portfolio as a "matter related to the bank's president," The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.

* French union CGT wrote to French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in early December to complain about the lack of transparency at Renault-Nissan BV, the Dutch corporate governance unit of Nissan and Alliance partner Renault SA, Reuters reported.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Tesla CEO Elon Musk called for "a few hundred" more internal participants to test the company's Autopilot Hardware 3, which Musk claims to be a neural net computer with "over 1000% more capability" than the previous version, Electrek reported, quoting Musk's email to employees. Employees who participate in Tesla's full self-driving test program and provide feedback reportedly would get a full self-driving capability upgrade worth $8,000 on their cars for free.

* China's Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. launched a flagship electric vehicle, called ORA R1, the second under the carmaker's ORA new energy vehicle brand. The subsidized price of the ORA R1 ranges from 59,800 Chinese yuan to 77,800 yuan.

* Tata Motors Ltd. is working alongside other Tata Group companies, including Tata Capital and Tata Power, to build an electric vehicle ecosystem in India, Mint reported, citing Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran.

* German utility Innogy SE will spin off its electric mobility business into a new company, called Innogy eMobility Solutions GmbH, from Jan. 1, 2019, to strengthen its focus on the electromobility industry. The Dortmund, Germany-based unit will be led by Innogy's COO Elke Temme, CFO Thomas Hüsgen and chief commercial officer Stefan von Dobschütz.

POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* India expects its automotive sector to draw $8 billion to $10 billion in local and foreign investments by 2023, according to a report by the country's ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises. Under the Automotive Mission Plan 2016-26, the government and the automotive sector also forecast the country becoming the third globally, after China and the U.S., in engineering, manufacturing and export of vehicles and auto components, by 2026, according to the ministry's year-end review.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Volkswagen AG expects to set up its first electric vehicle mobile quick-charging stations in the first half of 2019 in Wolfsburg, Germany, as part of a pilot project. VW said it will install the stations with a charging capacity of up to 360 kWh, which can charge up to 15 EVs, across other cities from 2020 onward.

TRUCKS AND MOTORCYCLES

* Indian two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp Ltd.-backed electric scooter startup Ather Energy Pvt. Ltd. plans to raise between 2 billion Indian rupees to 3 billion rupees over the next year to help fund its Indian expansion, Mint reported, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Ather reportedly could secure the funds from existing investors before looking elsewhere, even as it plans a separate revenue stream through a network of EV charging stations in the country.

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Most major auto markets experience decline in November sales

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 0.10% to 25,504.20, while the Nikkei 225 declined 0.31% to 20,014.77.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 1.80% to 6,703.46, and the Euronext 100 was up 1.69% to 906.87.

On the macro front

The international trade in goods report, the retail inventories report, the wholesale inventories report, the Chicago PMI, the pending home sales index, the EIA Natural Gas Report, the EIA Petroleum Status 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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