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FCA caps record 2018 with strong December sales; GM names new president


* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported another healthy monthly sales growth in the U.S., with a 14% year-over-year rise in December 2018 to 196,520 vehicles, capping off a year that saw the company's highest annual retail sales since 2001 at 1.76 million vehicles, up 8%. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which had a dismal 2018 with U.S. sales down 6.2% to 1.5 million units, saw its December sales rise 7.6% year over year to 148,720 autos. Reporting only quarterly sales figures, General Motors fell 2.7% to 785,229 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2018. GM sold 2.95 million vehicles in 2018, down 1.6%. Ford Motor Co. U.S. monthly sales fell 8.8% to 220,774 vehicles. In 2018, the company sold 2.5 million vehicles. Toyota Motor Corp. reported a 0.9% drop to 220,910 vehicles in the final month of 2018, which saw the Japanese carmaker sell 2.43 million vehicles, down 0.3% from 2017.

* General Motors Co. named Mark Reuss company president, effective immediately after the previous president, Dan Ammann, took the helm of Cruise, GM's self-driving car unit. Reuss has been executive vice president and president of GM's global product group and Cadillac since June. Reuss will maintain those positions and also assume responsibility for GM's Quality organization.


* Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. shares plunged 8.2% on Jan. 3, knocking $1.2 billion off its market capitalization after Morgan Stanley lowered the carmaker's rating to "underweight" on poor domestic demand, Bloomberg News reported. Morgan Stanley reportedly said in a research note that inventory for Geely's flagship Boyue SUV has risen to over three months and that of its luxury brand Lynk & Co. has reached more than a month.

* Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is set to appear in a Tokyo court after filing a request to hear the reason for his detention, a legal step that requires a Japanese court to hold an open hearing within five days of such an application, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. Ghosn filed a request with the Tokyo District Court on Jan. 4.

* Ford Motor advised its shareholders to reject Baker Mills LLC's mini-tender offer to acquire about 0.010% of the company. Baker Mills offered to buy up to 400,000 common shares of Ford at $7.00 per share, though Ford said the offer price is 17.84% lower than the closing share price of its common stock on Dec. 14, 2018, which was $8.52.


* Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the Singapore government has been "unwelcoming" and unsupportive of the company and of electric vehicles. Separately, Tesla is likely to start delivering its Model 3 EVs in Europe in February even as it awaits some approvals from local authorities, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Tesla also plans to start delivering Model 3 cars to Chinese customers in late March, according to its Chinese website, confirming the timeline Musk tweeted last year.

* General Motors' self-driving unit, Cruise, will pilot food and grocery delivery with delivery tech company DoorDash. The pair will begin testing in 2019, with a focus on the San Francisco market.


* The United Auto Workers union sued General Motors Co. over a breach of a labor contract relating to the rights of certain employees who were laid off. The lawsuit states that GM has laid off 1,000 employees nationwide, including 690 employees from the Lordstown, Ohio, Assembly plant, that are eligible to transfer to plants with openings. Many of the employees have applied to transfer to openings at the company's Fort Wayne, Ind., assembly plant, though UAW argued that the automaker has failed to "honor its obligation" to employees with seniority, instead using temporary employees at the Fort Wayne Assembly plant.

* AB Volvo made a 7 billion Swedish kronor provision to address problems related to a faulty emissions-control component. In October 2018, Volvo admitted that its truck and bus engines might be exceeding nitrogen oxide emission limits after an emissions control component was found to be degrading quicker than expected. Volvo added that the estimated costs were based on vehicle testing, statistical analysis and discussions with relevant authorities and that it will continuously assess the size of the provision.


* South Korean electric vehicle battery-makers performed poorly in 2018 compared with their Japanese and Chinese counterparts, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a report from renewable energy research firm SNE Research. The country's top battery-maker, LG Chem, posted a 42.2% year on year rise on shipments to 6,183 MWh, ranking fourth in the world. Samsung SDI's battery shipments rose 26% to 2,731 MWh year over year but slipped one notch to No. 6 in the world. Japanese battery-maker Panasonic's shipments soared 113% year over year to 17,606 MWh, followed by Chinese battery manufacturer CATL with 16,176 MWh, up 111%.

* Germany auto parts and technology giant Continental AG is developing a 5G hybrid platform to integrate vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, technologies and was awarded a first series project in China to implement the technology. The platform integrates technologies for 4G and 5G network access, as well as for short-range dedicated short range communication and cellular-V2X technologies.

* Auto parts retailer Aptiv PLC signed a commercial partnership with artificial intelligence lab Affectiva Inc. Aptiv will work with the human perception AI lab to deliver scalable software that provides intelligent sensors inside cabins. To support the partnership, Aptiv made a minority investment in Affectiva.


* Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz brand ended 2018 as the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for the third straight year, Bloomberg News reported. Mercedes-Benz sold 315,959 vehicles in 2019, pulling a narrow win over Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s luxury vehicle unit Infiniti sold 18,065 vehicles in December 2018, up 10.3% from the same month in 2017. In 2018, Infiniti sold 149,280 vehicles, down 2.7% from 2017.

* Ford will stop reporting its monthly sales and publish quarterly results instead, a move General Motors adopted in April. The carmaker's next sales report will be in April.

* AB Volvo set a global sales record for 2018 at 642,253 cars delivered, up 12.4% from 2017. U.S. sales grew 20.6% while China sales grew 14.1% and Europe sales grew 6.4% year over year. In December 2018, the Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. unit sold 60,157 automobiles, up 2.8% from December 2017.

* U.S. maker of soft drinks PepsiCo Inc. is testing a robotic delivery service at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., The Associated Press reported. The service is similar to Ford Motor Co. and pizza chain Domino's self-driving delivery service.

* Energy company Phillips 66 will collaborate with Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s developer studio for in-vehicle fuel payment. Users will be able to reserve fuel through the vehicle's dashboard infotainment system and pay at Phillips 66, 75 and Conoco stations.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng rose 2.24% to 25,626.03, while the Nikkei 225 was down 2.26% to 19,561.96.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 1.40% to 6,786.47, and the Euronext 100 was up 1.25% to 908.69.

On the macro front

The Employment Situation report, the PMI Services 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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