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Mercedes-Benz wins 2019 luxury car race; Lime exits 12 markets

TOP NEWS

* Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz emerged as the largest luxury car brand in 2019, edging past Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's namesake brand and Volkswagen AG's Audi. BMW said Jan. 10 that the BMW brand sold nearly 2.17 million vehicles in 2019, up 2% but below Mercedes-Benz's 2.34 million units delivered worldwide. Overall, BMW Group, which also includes Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, sold 2.52 million vehicles. Audi sold about 1.85 million vehicles in 2019, up 1.8% year over year.

* Bike and scooter-sharing startup Lime, also known as Neutron Holdings Inc., will pull out of 12 markets and lay off 100 employees worldwide, or 14% of its staff. Lime said the decision will affect Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and San Antonio in the U.S., and cities in Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico and Brazil. CEO Brad Bao said Lime is "hopeful" it can return to these communities "when the time is right."

CARMAKERS

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said it will idle its Illinois plant in Belvidere for two weeks through to Jan. 27 to align with demand, Automotive News reported. The factory assembles FCA's Jeep Cherokee.

* India's Tata Motors Ltd. said it will showcase a new lineup of vehicles compliant with the country's new BS-VI emissions standards in 2020. The product lineup includes 14 commercial vehicles and 12 passenger vehicles.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Volkswagen said it agreed to acquire Diconium GmbH by purchasing the 51% of shares it did not already own for an undisclosed sum. VW acquired a 49% stake in the German digital specialist in November 2018. Following the transaction, Diconium will develop online sales platforms under VW's digital arm Car.Software.

* South Korean battery-maker SK Innovation Co. Ltd. is planning a second plant in the U.S. and Hungary, Reuters reported, citing CEO Kim Jun. In February 2019, reports surfaced that SKI will invest 950 billion won to build another plant in Komarom, Hungary. In 2018, it was reported that SKI had listed four U.S. sites for expansion.

* San Francisco courts ruled that former Waymo LLC engineer Anthony Levandowski and executive Lior Ron were liable for $128 million after revealing trade secrets when they joined Uber Technologies Inc., Reuters reported. Waymo, a self-driving company backed by Google parent Alphabet, settled the initial lawsuit with Uber in February 2018.

MOBILITY SERVICES

* Lyft Inc. offered to pay New York ride-share drivers about $100 to $600 each to settle a lawsuit alleging the company misclassified them as contractors instead of employees, Bloomberg Law reported, citing documents. Lawyers of the class of nearly 8,000 drivers are advising them to reject the offer for being "too low." The offer will also allow Lyft to boot drivers off the platform, and force drivers to sign confidentiality and nondisparagement agreements, the lawyers reportedly said.

POLICY, REGULATION AND SAFETY

* United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble said the reports alleging he was involved in a bribery investigation were "scurrilous" and "false," The Detroit News reported.

* Japan asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for Carlos Ghosn's wife, Carole Ghosn, Bloomberg News reported, citing Japanese broadcaster NHK. Interpol issued its Red Notice for Carlos Ghosn for escaping trial for alleged financial misconduct.

* Toyota Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are the latest carmakers to issue voluntary recalls of vehicles in Australia that were installed with potentially deadly airbags supplied by Takata Corp., Australia's competition watchdog said. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the recall of more than 18,000 vehicles covers certain cars manufactured between 1996 and 1999, with the companies offering to buy back the vehicles affected.

* Attorney Francois Zimeray, who represents Carlos Ghosn, said the Japanese government gave the auto executive "zero chance" to a fair trial, forcing Ghosn to escape to Beirut, Reuters reported.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Volkswagen said it expects 2019 sales to be "slightly above" 2018's 10.8 million vehicles, instead of its forecast of flat sales. The carmaker said it expects revenue across its 12 brands to grow as much as 5% for 2019. In the same release, VW said it expects its battery-electric vehicles to make up over 20% of its sales, or about 3 million units, by 2025.

* Jaguar Land Rover said it sold 52,814 vehicles in December, up 1.3% year over year, thanks to a 26.3% jump in China sales. The Tata Motors-owned carmaker sold 557,706 vehicles in 2019, down 5.9% from 2018.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

* Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Trucks said it will invest €70 million in a truck testing and development center in Germany's Palatinate region.

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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 was up 0.27% to 28,638.20, and the Nikkei 225 increased 0.47% to 23,850.57.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.02% to 7,599.56, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.05% to 1,159.24.

On the macro front

The employment situation report, the wholesale trade 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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