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Tesla exec churn 44% among Musk's direct reports; Nio co-founder quits

TOP NEWS

* The annual turnover rate for Tesla Inc. executives directly reporting to Elon Musk hit 44%, which could be a sign of "instability" and "more significant concerns among senior leaders about the company's direction or workplace practices," according to Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi. The annual turnover rate at Tesla is 27%, higher than Silicon Valley tech companies like Snap, Netflix, Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. Tesla's stock was trading at $219.62, down 6.54%, at market close Aug. 14 after reports of slowing EV sales in China.

* Nio Inc. co-founder Jack Cheng left the electric vehicle startup "due to age," the Financial Times (London) reported, citing an internal memo, sending shares of the Tesla rival down 8%. In the most recent quarter, the company saw earnings plummet after it was forced to recall 4,800 vehicles following three incidents of its automobiles catching fire. Nio's software head, Li Zhang, and U.K. operation head, Angelika Sodian, left the company in July.

CARMAKERS

* Ford Motor Co. said it will extend warranties on 560,000 Focus and Fiesta vehicles after it found issues with the automobiles' six-speed transmissions. Owners can have repairs reimbursed and avail a software update that could address the issue. Separately, the Michigan-based automaker issued a safety recall in North America for 108,399 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ from 2015 model year with potentially faulty seat belts that could break and increase the risk of injury.

* Volkswagen AG's U.S. unit named Saad Chehab its marketing head, effective Aug. 19. Chehab recently worked for Kia Motors Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and will replace Senior Vice President of Marketing Jim Zabel. In the same release, the carmaker said external vice president for sales and marketing Derrick Hatami is leaving the company and will be replaced by Werner Eichhorn, chief sales and marketing officer for Volkswagen of America.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* Tesla launched its Model 3 electric sedan in South Korea with a starting price of 52 million won or roughly $43,000, The Korea Times reported. If purchased with a 9 million won government subsidy, the price falls to 43 million won or about $35,000, the report said. Separately, Electrek reported that Tesla began shipping Model 3 orders to Australia and New Zealand.

* China-based self-driving vehicle startup Neolix Technologies Co. Ltd. plans to roll out about 10,000 of its self-driving robovans to Chinese cities for delivery and logistics services, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing CEO and founder Yu Enyuan. The level-4 self-driving vans are guided by cameras and sensors and have been tested through over 500,000 kilometers, the report said.

POLICY, REGULATION AND SAFETY

* Slovakia's auto-dominated economy posted its second-quarter growth at 1.9%, missing analyst expectations of 3.3% growth as sluggish automotive industries in Germany and around the world took a toll on the country's economy, Reuters reported, citing VUB Bank analyst Michal Lehuta. Germany, Slovakia's biggest trade partner, saw auto manufacturing drop 7.6% year over year in June.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Magna International Inc. said it opened a 230,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Grand Blanc Township, Mich., to develop advanced driver assistance systems, advanced robotics and other future tech. The Canadian auto-parts maker said it invested about $50 million in the site.

* Lear Corp. named Carl Esposito senior vice president and president of E-Systems, effective Sep. 3. Esposito, who was previously president of Honeywell Aerospace's electronics solutions strategic business arm, will replace Jeneanne Hanley, who left in January to pursue other interests.

AUTOMOTIVE RETAIL

* Malaysia-based used-car retailer Carsome Sdn Bhd is planning to raise $40 million by 2019-end in its series C funding round, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing sources. The report added that the financing could push its value up to $110 million or "much higher."

* Volkswagen's Škoda brand sold 102,700 vehicles worldwide in July, up 3.1% year over year on strong SUV demand in Europe. The growth in Europe was partially offset by China where deliveries dropped 15.7% to 21,100 vehicles.

* Automotive Properties REIT disclosed in its second-quarter earnings release that it plans to purchase the Audi Queensway automotive dealership property in Etobicoke, Ontario, for C$36.5 million. The Canadian single-tenant real estate investment trust said it signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Dilawri Group of Cos. for the transaction during the second quarter.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

* Coach and bus registrations in the U.K. dropped 29.4% year over year in the second quarter to 1,433, according to data by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The drop marks the 10th consecutive quarter of decline and was attributed to political and economic instability. The country's heavy goods vehicles, saw sales jump 46.3% year over year in the second quarter to 15,605, according to SMMT data.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.76% to 25,495.46, while the Nikkei 225 fell 1.21% to 20,405.65.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 1.54% to 7,037.60, and the Euronext 100 dropped 1.36% to 1,010.86.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook survey, the retail sales report, the Empire State manufacturing survey, the productivity and costs report, the industrial production report, the business inventories report, the housing market index, the EIA natural gas report, the treasury international capital report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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