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FCA, Peugeot close to finalizing merger; Takata could face massive recall

TOP NEWS

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Peugeot SA hope to wrap up the details of their planned merger in the week of Dec. 16, Bloomberg News reported, citing unnamed sources. The merger of the two carmakers would create the world's third-largest automaker by unit sales. Separately, sources told Reuters that Peugeot called for a supervisory board meeting Dec. 17 to finalize the deal.

* Takata Corp. could be forced to recall up to 100 million airbags if it fails to prove the long-term safety of its new desiccant-equipped inflators to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by Dec. 31, Bloomberg News reported, citing NHTSA documents.

CARMAKERS

* S&P Global Ratings lowered the long-term issuer credit ratings of Daimler AG and its North American subsidiary to A- from A as it expects the German carmaker to post weak earnings amid repeated profit warnings and restructuring announcements.

* Volkswagen Group sold 988,800 vehicles worldwide in November, up 5.1% year over year after posting growth in Europe, North America and China. The German carmaker sold 375,500 vehicles in Europe, up 6.4% year over year as North American sales grew 5.7% to 83,800 vehicles. China sales were up 5.1% at 419,700 automobiles.

* Japan's Subaru Corp. expects to sell a record 730,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2020, thanks to high demand for its Forester and Outback models, Reuters reported, citing CEO Tomomi Nakamura.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

* Fiat Chrysler formed a product development organization to focus on electrified, connected and autonomous driving technology. The division will launch in 2020 and will be led by the carmaker's chief technical officer, Harald Wester.

* Steve Carlisle, president of General Motors Co.'s Cadillac brand, said nearly all the brand's vehicles will be electrified by 2030, Reuters reported. Suppliers and sources separately told Reuters that the carmaker will roll out a compact electric SUV in China in 2022 and in the U.S. in 2023, and production of a larger electric SUV will begin at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in 2023. The executive added that the brand will record "low double-digit sales growth" in China for the year, despite the market seeing a sales decline for 17 months straight.

* Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz said its Untertürkheim plant in Germany will produce its electric powertrains. The carmaker is also installing a battery plant at the site and will build another battery factory at its Brühl facility, a 12,000 square-meter site in Stuttgart that will be capable of carbon-neutral production. Separately, Mercedes-Benz said it began producing its fully electric car eSprinter at its Dusseldorf plant in Stuttgart.

* Tesla Inc. began merging its sales and delivery teams, Business Insider reported, citing current and former employees. The integration, called One Motion, will assign one employee to each customer for the whole sales process, including paperwork, sales and delivery, the carmaker told employees in October.

* Ferrari NV CEO Louis Camilleri said the automaker will not have an all-electric car model ready until after 2025, Reuters reported. Camilleri told reporters at one of the automaker's factories in Italy that the company needs time to further develop the battery technology, the report said. In August, the CEO said Ferrari would offer a fully electric vehicle after 2022.

* Jonathan Chang resigned as Tesla's general counsel on Dec. 6, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources. Chang's departure marks the third general counsel the electric carmaker has lost in the past 12 months, following Todd Maron and Dane Butswinkas.

AUTONOMOUS AND CONNECTED VEHICLES

* Honda Motor Co. Ltd. will release a self-driving vehicle that can steer itself, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The Legend vehicle will have level-3 autonomous driving tech and reportedly retail at about ¥10 million.

* Volkswagen AG's U.S. arm said it joined the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium, a group created by GM, Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. aimed at developing industrywide best practices for self-driving cars. Volkswagen Group of America joins other AVSC members Daimler, Honda, Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving arm.

* Nokia agreed to independent mediation with Daimler and several auto parts suppliers to settle a technology licensing dispute in hopes of avoiding an EU antitrust investigation, Reuters reported, citing a statement. Daimler, along with other auto companies, complained about the high fees Nokia demanded for patents that are essential to car communications.

MOBILITY SERVICES

* Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's motorcycle division BMW Motorrad said it will team up with scooter-rental service Cooltra Motos SL to provide an electric-motorcycle rental service in Barcelona. BMW Motorrad will provide for the project its C evolution, which features a 100-kilometer range.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Japanese tire-maker Bridgestone Corp. appointed Shuichi Ishibashi CEO and representative executive officer, effective after its March 2020 board meeting.

* German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, which owns a car parts and materials business, is in talks with Tesla to win a supplier contract for the carmaker's Berlin factory, Reuters reported, citing board member Klaus Keysberg's comments to local newspaper Handelsblatt.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Asbury Automotive Group Inc. agreed to acquire certain assets of luxury cars dealer Park Place Dealerships for $1 billion in an all-cash transaction, excluding vehicle inventory. Park Place is a dealer of luxury cars including Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Bentley cars, as well as Jaguar Land Rover Automotive and Toyota's Lexus models.

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End of the road for USMCA uncertainty; Airbus faces further tariff headwind

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng inched up 2.57% to 27,687.76, and the Nikkei 225 rose 2.55% to 24,023.10.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 1.84% to 7,406.99, and the Euronext 100 increased 1.11% to 1,138.63.

On the macro front

The retail sales report, the import and export prices, the business inventories report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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