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FCA fails US emission norms; SoftBank, Toyota may put $1B in Uber's robotaxi arm


* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will voluntarily recall 862,520 vehicles in the U.S. after they failed to meet emissions standards, the Environmental Protection Agency announced. The vehicles went through routine in-use emissions investigations conducted by the EPA and in-use testing conducted by Fiat Chrysler as required by EPA regulations, the agency said in a news release. Separately, Bloomberg News reported that Fiat Chrysler's recall would need 77,000 ounces of palladium to replace the vehicles' catalytic converters, putting further supply stress on the palladium market that is already facing shortages.

* A SoftBank Group Corp.-led investor group is in advanced talks to invest "$1 billion or more" in Uber Technologies Inc.'s autonomous car unit ahead of its anticipated IPO, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. According to the report, the consortium, which includes SoftBank Vision Fund LP and one unnamed carmaker, will acquire a minority stake that would value the self-driving unit at about $5 billion to $10 billion. If the talks lead to an agreement, the parties could announce the move in April, the report added. Reuters reported that Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to be a part of the investor group.


* Ford Motor Co. is cutting salaried jobs as part of its $11 billion restructuring plan, the Detroit Free Press reported. The Michigan-based automaker will lay off employees in human resources, accounting and administrative support at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, the newspaper said, citing the company. While Ford did not respond to a request for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence, a company spokesman told the Detroit Free Press that the process will be complete in the second quarter of 2019, without providing any numbers on the job cuts.

* Renault SA CEO Thierry Bolloré shuffled the French carmaker's executive committee, appointing eight additional members, including CFO Clotilde Delbos. The shakeup mirrors similar moves at Alliance partners Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shortly after the formation of a new four-member Alliance board to be led by Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.

* Nissan Motor could leave its chairman post vacant for the time being and ask Japanese corporate veteran Sadayuki Sakakibara to preside over its board meetings, Reuters reported, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The company reportedly would nominate Sakakibara, who is a co-chair of the external committee formed by the Japanese carmaker to re-evaluate its corporate governance structure, as an external director at an upcoming general shareholders' meeting in June.

* Peugeot SA-owned Opel is returning to Russia with three planned model launches in 2019. Opel said the Grandland X, made at its Eisenach, Germany plant, the Zafira Life and the Vivaro, both to be produced in Russia, will be available in the country in the fourth quarter, and the carmaker expects to announce further expansion plans in Russia at a later date. Yannick Bézard, executive vice president and operational director of Eurasia at Peugeot, said Opel's relaunch, which followed its earlier foray into Ukraine in 2018, is part of a strategy to triple Peugeot's volumes in the region by 2021.

* Volkswagen AG's premium car brand Audi AG forecast 2019 operating return on sales to be between 7% and 8.5%, below its long-term target, after a "challenging" 2018 primarily due to the changeover to WLTP emissions norms and diesel crisis. Audi also is "significantly accelerating" its strategic realignment plan, due out May 23, to focus on its core business activities as it expects 2019 to be "a transition year with special challenges." Profit before tax for 2018 fell 7.5% year over year to €4.36 billion, while deliveries fell 3.5% to 1,812,485 units and operating return on sales before special items of 7.9% missed Audi's previous long-term target of 8% to 10%.

* Volkswagen AG's Spanish passenger car brand Seat posted a 33.4% year-over-year rise in 2018 profit of €254 million, from €191 million in 2017, and said it will pay out April 15 €1,068 as an annual bonus to each Seat employee, up 49.2% from 2017.


* China has lifted a warning notice on Tesla Inc.'s Model 3 sedans that previously halted their entry, Reuters reported, citing a Chinese customs official. The customs authority was previously reported March 6 to have accepted Tesla's solution to fix the issues that caused the blockade.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-backed Chinese electric-vehicle startup XPENG Motors appointed Wu Xinzhou, a former Qualcomm Inc. employee specializing in autonomous driving, as vice president of autonomous driving R&D, Gasgoo reported. Wu, reporting directly to CEO He Xiaopeng, will be in-charge of technical roadmap planning and business and team management at XPENG's research and development unit in the U.S. and China, Gasgoo reported.


* U.K. lawmakers rejected Britain crashing out of the European Union without a deal, lining up a new vote March 14 to delay the March 29 Brexit date. However, a no-deal scenario remains the default path unless the U.K. and EU can finalize a withdrawal agreement before any new deadline. U.K.'s leading auto industry body, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, welcomed the move, and urged taking all steps necessary to ensure that a delay in Brexit date "must be purposeful and long enough to give business stability and Parliament time to reach consensus to end the deadlock."

* Ford Motor Co. said the tariffs brought about by a no-deal Brexit "would deal a devastating blow" to the automotive industry and "would damage the competitiveness of Ford's engine manufacturing in the U.K.," Bloomberg News reported. Ford, which was reported in February to consider moving operations out of the country, would have to face taxes twice on its U.K.-made engines in the event of a no-deal Brexit: first when they are exported to mainland European assembly plants, and again when it brings the finished cars back to the U.K., it said.


* Lyft Inc. has earmarked $863.7 million in "restricted reinsurance trust investments," through a subsidiary, in its March 1 IPO prospectus in a bid to insure its daily operations against risks, including bodily injury, property damage, uninsured and under-insured motorist liability, The Wall Street Journal reported. The ride-hailing company's so-called captive insurance unit shows the risk associated with new industries and insurance companies' unwillingness to secure them due to lack of historical performance information, the Journal reported. A Lyft spokeswoman reportedly declined to comment.


* Volkswagen AG will not pursue an IPO of its truck and bus subsidiary, Traton SE, as planned due to current market conditions. However, the German automaker said it plans to go for a public listing when the market conditions improve.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.15% to 28,851.39. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.02% to 21,287.02.

In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.48% to 7,193.54 and the Euronext 100 was 0.53% higher at 1,033.03.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the import and export prices report, the new home sales report, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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