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Ford, Alibaba open 'car vending machine' in China; Uber exits Southeast Asia

TOP NEWS

* Ford Motor Co. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Tmall joined hands to open a car vending machine in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Called the Super Test-Drive Center, the facility features more than 100 Ford cars with models including Explorer SUV, Mustang and Escort. Consumers can test-drive or buy a car at the center through a mobile app. Alibaba is planning to build similar facilities in Beijing and Hangzhou.

* Uber Technologies Inc. sold its operations and assets in Southeast Asia to GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. Under the deal, Uber will hold a 27.5% stake in Grab and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join the Singaporean ride-hailing service's board.

CAR MAKERS

* SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd., China's largest automaker by sales, aims to build a plant in Egypt and export cars in the Middle East and Africa, China's Xinhua News Agency reported, quoting Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil. SAIC is likely to benefit from Egypt's newly approved investment law to encourage full-car production, Kabil reportedly said.

* Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.-owned Volvo Cars will start making Geely's Lynk & Co.-branded cars at its facility in Ghent, Belgium, from late 2019. Volvo Cars, which owns 30% of Lynk & Co., said the move will help the Lynk brand expand in Europe.

* Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. expects to foray into the U.S. by 2021, for which "research and product development" has started, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, quoting company Chairman Wei Jianjun. Great Wall also reported a 52.21% dip in 2017 profits year-over-year to 5.04 billion Chinese yuan from 10.56 billion yuan.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Germany's Daimler AG and Chinese battery maker BYD Co. Ltd. launched the DENZA 500 battery electric vehicle for the Chinese market under their joint venture Shenzhen DENZA New Energy Automotive Co. Ltd. DENZA 500 features a namesake smartphone application that enables car owners to locate over 112,000 charging stations across China, Daimler said.

* Ford Motor will continue to test its autonomous vehicles in Florida, The Washington Post reported March 23, citing a company statement. Ford said it will decide whether to adjust its autonomous vehicle development when more facts and data come out regarding the fatal accident involving Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving car. General Motors Co. reportedly also continued testing the autonomous vehicle.

REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* Japan's transport ministry has asked the Yokohama District Court to penalize Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. for the company's failure to stop employing uncertified workers at a facility even after receiving a business improvement order, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Nissan reportedly could be fined as much as ¥32.1 billion as it allegedly continued to violate the ministry's September 2017 order for about three weeks.

* Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. pages on Facebook Inc. were deleted amid the social media company's data breach scandal. The pages disappeared shortly after Elon Musk, the CEO of the two companies, was confronted on Twitter about the pages.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Ohio-based auto-parts maker Dana Inc. raised the cash component of its offer to buy British engineering firm GKN PLC by $140 million and doubled a proposed share repurchase program to $200 million. GKN, which is fending off a hostile bid from turnaround firm Melrose Industries PLC, will now receive about $1.77 billion in cash proceeds from Dana. It expects to return "as soon as practicable" up to £700 million in cash to shareholders following the raised Dana offer, Reuters reported.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Automotive distributor and retailer Inchcape PLC acquired Central American peer Grupo Rudelman, which handles Suzuki Motor Corp.'s distribution business in Costa Rica and Panama, for $284 million in cash. Inchcape added that it will discontinue its previously announced share repurchase program following the deal.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.79% to 30,548.77. The Nikkei 225 added 0.72% to 20,766.10. In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.45% to 6,952.81, and the Euronext 100 rose 0.27% to 999.02.

On the macro front

Chicago Fed National Activity Index and the Dallas Fed manufacturing survey are due out today.

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