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Nissan said to plan for Renault breakup; China vehicles sales drop 8.2% in 2019

TOP NEWS

* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Renault SA shares slid on news that the Japanese carmaker ramped up contingency planning for a future without its French partner since the escape of former alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan, the Financial Times (London) reported, citing sources. The carmakers' alliance has been falling apart since the arrest and ouster of Ghosn, and attempts to rebuild trust by overhauling management have been failing, sources told the newspaper. Renault shares were down 2.89% to €40.63, and Nissan shares slid 1.15% to ¥637 following the report.

* Vehicle sales in China dropped 8.2% to 25.77 million in 2019, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, or CAAM, reported. Total production fell 7.5% to 25.72 million vehicles during the year. CAAM expects the market slowdown to continue in 2020. New energy vehicle sales for 2019 stood at 1.21 million, down 4% from 1.26 million in 2018, with sales falling sharply since Beijing slashed subsidies in June 2019. Separately, Miao Wei, China's industry and information technology minister, said the country will not cut subsidies for new energy vehicles in July, Reuters reported.

CARMAKERS

* Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. is in talks with Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC for a potential investment in the British luxury-car maker, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The Chinese auto group, which also owns Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and Volvo Cars, is conducting due diligence, the report said, adding that the talks might lead to a technology partnership rather than a full investment.

* The Peugeot family plans to boost its stake in the company formed by the proposed merger between Peugeot SA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV immediately after completion, Reuters reported, citing an interview of a key member of the family by a French publication. Jean-Philippe Peugeot, who heads family-run fund Etablissements Peugeot Freres SA, said in an interview with L'Est Republicain that the family, which is set to own a 6.2% stake in the merged entity, intends to immediately exercise the option to buy additional stake of up to 2.5% from either Bpifrance or China's Dongfeng Motor Group Co. Ltd.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

* General Motors Co. plans to unveil the Hummer brand for its upcoming electric truck and SUV lineup in a Super Bowl ad featuring NBA player LeBron James, Reuters reported, citing sources. The vehicles will be sold under the GMC marque. In October 2019, reports surfaced that GM plans to invest $3 billion to build 80,000 electrified vehicles a year at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant from late 2021.

* Daimler AG-owned Mercedes-Benz and Geely aim to build 150,000 connected electric vehicles a year in Xian, China, Reuters reported, citing Daimler Executive Vice President Leng Yan. The carmakers jointly invested 5.4 billion yuan in their 50/50 venture, called Smart Automobile Co.

* Renault unveiled plug-in hybrid versions of its Clio hatchback and Captur mini-SUV, Automotive News reported. The French carmaker did not reveal pricing or other details but said both vehicles will go on sale in May.

* Volkswagen AG said the software problems with its battery-powered ID.3 will not delay its summer 2020 launch in Europe, Automotive News reported. The issue reportedly affects over 20,000 ID.3 cars.

* Volvo Cars will launch its electric XC40 in India between late 2021 and early 2022, marking its first electric vehicle in the market, Moneycontrol reported, citing sources.

* Chinese electric-car maker NIO Ltd. said it will launch battery services in 2020 as part of its "battery as a service" concept, Gasgoo reported, citing CEO Li Bin. Nio will trial battery-swapping and charging stations, the report said.

MOBILITY SERVICES

* Russia's Yandex plans to launch its car-sharing service in Europe later in the year, the Financial Times reported, citing Yandex Drive head Anton Ryazanov. The search engine operator, which also operates a self-driving fleet and taxi and delivery services, has a fleet of over 21,000 vehicles in Russia.

POLICY, REGULATION AND SAFETY

* Germany is shifting to electrified vehicles, putting 410,000 jobs at risk through 2030, Reuters reported, citing German daily Handelsblatt. The auto industry would shed about 88,000 jobs from engines and transmissions alone, the report said.

* The particle emissions of newer, top-selling diesel models still violated emissions laws, Europe-based climate group Transport and Environment, or T&E, said. During tests, T&E found Nissan Qashqai was 32% over the legal limit, while Peugeot's Opel Astra was 115% above limit.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns Geely Auto Group and Volvo Cars, sold 2.18 million vehicles in 2019, up 1.23% year over year, Gasgoo reported. Its Volvo Cars brand sold 705,452 vehicles during the year, up 9.84% from 2018. The group's Hong Kong-listed unit Geely Auto sold 1.36 million vehicles. The group's new energy vehicle sales grew 50.6% to 167,507 units.

* Ford Motor Co. saw China sales drop for the third successive year in 2019 to 567,854 vehicles, plunging 26.1% year over year, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. In the fourth quarter, Ford China sold 146,473 vehicles, a 14.7% drop, amid a slowdown in overall auto sales.

* Volkswagen's namesake brand sold 6.28 million vehicles in 2019, up 0.5% from the prior year. The German carmaker sold 1.76 million vehicles in Europe, up 0.9%; 564,900 vehicles in North America, down 1.6%; and 3.16 million vehicles in China, up 1.7% year over year.

* Volkswagen-owned Porsche said it sold 280,800 vehicles in 2019, up 10% from 2018 as sales of its Cayenne model jumped 29% to 92,055.

* Russian carmaker OAO Avtovaz said sales in the country fell to 1.76 million vehicles in 2019, down 2% from 2018, Reuters reported.

* Tata Motors Ltd. said its brands sold 97,348 vehicles in December, down 3% year over year.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

* Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles said it sold 491,600 light commercial vehicles in 2019, down 1.6% year over year.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 1.11% to 28,954.94.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.23% to 7,605.06, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.04% to 1,156.90.

On the macro front

The Treasury budget is 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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