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US tariff kills Ford's China-made car plan; Beijing plans to curb overproduction

TOP NEWS

* Ford Motor Co. scrapped its plan to sell its China-built Focus compact car in the U.S. due to import duties the Trump administration imposed on China, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Kumar Galhotra, head of Ford North America. The Detroit carmaker denied a report by the British newspaper The Times that it will cease production of its Mondeo family car amid its corporate restructuring, Bloomberg News reported, citing an emailed statement from the U.S. automaker. Ford also dismissed as "pure speculation" a Morgan Stanley analysis that the company could cut 12% of its global workforce, including 24,000 jobs in Europe, Autocar magazine reported.

* China will limit auto manufacturers' investment in new production to restrain capacity and reduce the number of small and midsize companies, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. At an international auto industry conference in the port city Tianjin, an official from the National Development and Reform Commission, or NDRC, said China will "strictly regulate investment to prevent excess." The draft policy, which reportedly also seeks to oversee industry M&As, has got several global automakers concerned as it "places obstacles to a healthy, spontaneous development of the industry" and "basically means, more or less, no more new factories" in the country, Reuters reported, quoting executives and industry officials related to foreign automakers. The NDRC did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.

CARMAKERS

* Volkswagen AG inked memorandums of understanding with Ghana and Nigeria to expand its footprint in Africa. The German automaker said it will build an assembly plant in Ghana, and it also conducted a feasibility study to explore the introduction of rental, car sharing, ride-hailing and shuttle services in the country. VW further will strengthen its operations in Nigeria "on a step-by-step basis" and forecasts making the country into an automotive hub on the western coast of Africa over the long term.

* Suzuki Motor Corp. confirmed earlier reports of its exit from China as the Japanese carmaker agreed to transfer its 50% stake in the joint venture Chongqing Changan Suzuki Automobile Co. Ltd. to state-owned JV partner Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd. Changan Automobile will continue to sell Suzuki-licensed passenger cars. The exit will have no impact on Suzuki's finances for this fiscal year, the carmaker said.

* Suzuki Motor plans to invest at least 90 billion Indian rupees, or about $1.26 billion, in a new car plant in Gujarat, India, Mint reported, citing a company executive who declined to be named. The new site reportedly will begin rolling out vehicles after 2020. Meanwhile, Suzuki's India unit Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. posted a year-over-year fall of 3.4% in its August sales of 158,189 units, from 163,701 units in August 2017, due to flooding in the southern state of Kerala and heavy rains elsewhere in the country.

* India's Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is exploring a pact with Ford Motor Co. across "manufacturing, sourcing, engineering or even on the retail front" to foray into emerging markets like Indonesia and Russia, Mint reported, quoting Pawan Goenka, Mahindra's managing director. The Indian automaker reportedly is working on a model to be developed at its Detroit-based facility in collaboration with its subsidiary, Italian parts maker Pininfarina S.p.A.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Tesla Inc. missed a Model 3 production target of 6,000 units by August-end as the electric-car maker rolled out only 4,300 of its flagship models during the period, Electrek reported, citing a source. The company is still on track to meet at least the lower end of its third-quarter output goal of 50,000 to 55,000 Model 3 vehicles.

* Volkswagen's premium car unit Audi started production of its first all-electric SUV, e-tron, at Audi's Brussels facility as German automakers gear up to take on Tesla Inc., which dominates the premium all-electric segment. Audi is set to unveil e-tron Sept. 17 in San Francisco, while its German peer, Daimler AG-owned Mercedes-Benz, will launch on Sept. 4 its Mercedes EQC EV in Stockholm. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's concept EV Vision iNext has showcases planned across Munich, Beijing, New York and San Francisco, Reuters reported.

* Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. partnered with Smart Eye to develop a new range of safety systems using the latter's artificial intelligence-powered driver monitoring technology. The Swedish eye-tracking system's technology enables the monitoring of a driver's attention state, focus and hypothetical drowsiness on the road. Separately, Geely, which launched a premium sedan with Level 2 autonomous capabilities, said it will also team up with Smart Eye to produce semi-autonomous capable cars in 2019.

* Peugeot SA forged a strategic partnership with SoundHound Inc. to apply the Silicon Valley-based speech-recognition startup's technology on a digital personal assistant for its vehicles. The virtual assistant, which the French carmaker expects to be ready within two years, will use SoundHound's deep meaning understanding technology to provide a variety of audio services like restaurant recommendations, activating vehicle functions, launching connected services, regulating temperature and ventilation, among others.

REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* The U.S. and Canadian negotiators will meet again Sept. 5 after the two countries failed to reach a consensus on a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement, even as President Donald Trump told Congress of an intention to sign the bilateral deal with Mexico by the end of November, Reuters reported. The talks stalled after Trump said any deal with Canada would be "totally on our terms." A spokeswoman for the U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said Canada has refused to budge on the U.S. demands for dairy concessions, while Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference that the focus for the country "is on getting a good deal," the newswire reported.

* The German Transport Ministry rejected a Bild am Sonntag newspaper report that alleged Volkswagen AG's petrol cars show lower levels of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel usage, Reuters reported. All the claims alleged by the newspaper had already been looked into by the country's Federal Motor Transport Authority, a statement from the ministry reportedly said.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Melrose Industries PLC, which bought GKN PLC for £7.9 billion in April, is in talks with a number of insurers, including Aviva and Lloyds Banking Group's Scottish Widows, for selling off one of the two retirement funds of the British engineering firm, Sky News reported, citing sources close to the situation. A spokesman for Melrose, which agreed to infuse £1 billion into GKN's pension funds as part of the deal, reportedly said the "pledge will be met regardless of any other measures, such as buyouts from specialist providers to enhance the pensioner covenant," provided it gets a fair pricing. The turnaround firm also plans to sell GKN? businesses such as its off-highway powertrains unit and a wheel-making unit, Sky News reported.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-backed Chinese used-car portal Souche.com raised $578 million from a consortium of investors led by Primavera Capital and Morningside Venture Capital, valuing it at almost $3 billion, Bloomberg News reported, citing an emailed statement from the company. Souche.com reportedly intends to use the proceeds to better analyze information sourced from across the car industry as well as expand its leasing program in the country. Other investors included Alibaba, Dreamfly Capital and ClearVue Partners, Bloomberg reported.

* Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars recorded a 14.5% year-over-year growth in global sales in August, driven by growth in all key regions of the U.S., China and Europe. The Geely Automobile-owned company sold 43,361 cars during the month, with a rise of 18.4% in China sales, 12.2% in the U.S. sales and 4.9% in European sales.

* Hyundai Motor reported a 9.2% year over year jump in global sales in August, driven by a recovery in China and "strong demand" in Latin America and the Middle East. The South Korean carmaker reported global sales of 384,443 vehicles, with 325,861 units sold overseas, up 9.5%, and 58,582 sold locally, up 7.4%. Its affiliate, Kia Motors Corp., recorded global sales of 223,648 vehicles for the month, a marginal decrease from 2017. Overseas sales declined 2.0% year over year with 179,448 automobiles, while sales in South Korea increased by 7.7% to 44,200 vehicles.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng gained 0.94% to 27,973.34, while the Nikkei 225 fell 0.05% to 22,696.90.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 dropped 0.30% to 7,481.73, and the Euronext 100 shed 0.94% to 1,049.48.

On the macro front

The Purchasing Managers' manufacturing index, the Institute For Supply Management's manufacturing index and the construction spending 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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