* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s former representative director, Greg Kelly, who was detained over financial misconduct allegations along with former chairman Carlos Ghosn, was released by the Tokyo District Court on bail of ¥70 million in cash, Reuters reported. Kelly reportedly said in a statement that he did not falsify any documents and plans to prove his innocence in court. A Nissan spokesman, however, said its ongoing investigation had "uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct" that had led its board to dismiss Ghosn and Kelly from their positions.
* Japan's big three carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan Motor, all reported year-over-year growth in production and domestic sales in November. Toyota posted a 2.6% growth in production at 952,935 vehicles, Honda posted a 2.3% growth to 492,765 vehicles, and Nissan saw an uptick of 0.1% with 498,288 vehicles produced. Toyota's sales in Japan were up 4.4% to 198,251 vehicles, Honda's local sales were up 5.7% to 64,181 vehicles, and Nissan's domestic sales soared 31.4% to 45,587 vehicles.
* Nissan Motor updated its corporate governance code to enable its board to evaluate the carmaker's cross-shareholdings, ensuring that the purpose of each shareholding is appropriate and that the benefits and risks cover the cost of capital, Bloomberg News reported, citing a regulatory filing. A Nissan spokesman, however, told the news outlet the filing was routine and the updated code "does not refer to alliance partners, but rather to the company's holdings in certain other listed companies." The report comes amid the Japanese carmaker's increased tensions with alliance partner Renault SA over the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who has been ousted by Nissan but continues to be chairman and CEO of its French partner.
* Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor Corp. expanded the scope of their talks on India-focused strategic collaboration, which also involves Suzuki's India unit, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., to include fields such as manufacturing and sales practices, common service centers, royalty payments on models supplied to each other and alignment of their cultures, India's Mint reported, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Through the alliance, Toyota hopes to gain experience in selling smaller cars and learning from Suzuki's simplified manufacturing processes.
* China's Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. failed to find buyers for a nearly 31.4% stake in holding company Chery Holding, Gasgoo reported, citing Changjiang Equity Exchange releases. Chery aimed to raise funds through a stake sale and by releasing new company shares but could not find a buyer by the Dec. 20 final extension period deadline.
* FAW-Volkswagen, the joint venture between Chinese government-owned carmaker China FAW Group Corp. and Volkswagen AG, will launch a new brand in China on Feb. 26, 2019, Gasgoo reported, citing a Chinese media outlet. The new brand will roll out an A-segment SUV, an A+ SUV and an A SH sedan manufactured in the joint venture's Chengdu production base. FAW-VW on Oct. 29 registered a new trademark called "Jeda," seemingly influenced by VW's Jetta brand.
ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
* Japanese auto parts maker Denso Corp. and its local peer Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. formally agreed to form a 50/50 joint venture, first announced in August, to develop and sell electric vehicle driving modules. The venture will be called BluE Nexus and is expected to be established in April 2019. Additionally, Denso, Aisin and Toyota Motor affiliates, Advics Co. Ltd. and JTEKT Corp., also formally agreed to form their previously announced joint venture to develop integrated electronic control unit software for automated driving and vehicle dynamics control. The new entity is called J-QuAD DYNAMICS and is scheduled to be established in April 2019.
* Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc.'s open autonomous driving platform, Apollo, got another round of 20 licenses for autonomous vehicle road tests from Beijing city authorities, Gasgoo reported.
POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY
* Russian automaker GAZ Group is implementing internal measures as it continues to talk with the U.S. Treasury Department about lifting sanctions, Reuters reported, citing Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. The Treasury Department reportedly has extended a deadline for investors to exit GAZ to March 7, 2019, following it lifting most sanctions on other companies owned by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, including Rusal and En+.
AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT
* Hyundai Motor Co. unveiled the world's first fingerprint access control system that allows a driver to unlock doors and even start a vehicle by placing a finger on a sensor. The technology, to be initially applied on the automaker's Santa Fe SUV and released across select markets in the first quarter of 2019, also offers customized driving setting by matching driver information with fingerprint data to automatically adjust seating positions, connected car features and side-view mirror angles.
* Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd.'s auto-parts unit, HUAYU Automotive Systems Co. Ltd., or HASCO, plans to divest its 50% stake in its joint venture with ZF Friedrichshafen AG-owned TRW Automotive Inc. for 80.71 million Chinese yuan, Gasgoo reported. A HASCO executive reportedly said the company aims to develop its own automotive safety systems business.
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The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, Nikkei 225 increased 0.89% to 19,327.06.
On the macro front
The Redbook Index for retail sales, S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller HPI report, Richmond Fed manufacturing index report and State Street investor confidence index report are due out today.
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