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+++ DAIMLER has denied any direct involvement in sending Maybach limousines to North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. The company was questioned for how Kim Jong Un continues to “travel in style” despite UN sanctions that bar companies from selling luxury goods to North Korea. The North Korean leader is said to use at least 2 Maybach limousines, including an S62 and a S600 Pullman Guard, when attending foreign summits. Recently, the limos appeared in Russia for his high-profile meeting with President Vladimir Putin. “We have absolutely no idea how those vehicles were delivered to North Korea”, a Daimler spokesperson said in a statement. “For Daimler, the correct export of products in conformance with the law is a fundamental principle of responsible entrepreneurial activity”. The company noted that sales by third parties, “especially of used vehicles”, are beyond its control and responsibility. While it may be relatively simple to prevent UN countries from importing North Korean goods, a ban on exports to the country appears to be more of a symbolic gesture that is presumably easy to circumvent. +++ 

+++ Toyota said it was halting plans to install Dedicated Short-Range Communications ( DSRC ) technology on U.S. vehicles aimed at letting cars and trucks communicate with one another to avoid collisions. Automakers have been divided over whether to proceed with the DSRC system or use a 4G or 5G based system in the United States. Toyota’s announcement is a major blow to advocates of DSRC. The Japanese automaker announced plans in April 2018 to begin the installation of DSRC technology in 2021 “with the goal of adoption across most of its lineup by the mid-2020s”. It said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “unfortunately we have not seen significant production commitments from other automakers”. Automakers were allocated a section of spectrum for DSRC in the 5.9 GHz band in 1999 but it has essentially gone unused. Some FCC and cable company officials want to reallocate the spectrum for WiFi and other uses. Testing has gone on for years to see if the band can be shared. DSRC supporters note the U.S. Transportation Department has invested over $700 million in the system’s development. The cellular option has issues, including problems with interoperability, and is not mature enough to be deployed in the 5.9 GHz band, they say. Toyota said the decision was based on “a range of factors, including the need for greater automotive industry commitment as well as federal government support to preserve the 5.9 GHz spectrum band for DSRC”. The chance that the band could be subjected to “harmful interference from unlicensed operations creates a substantial and arguably insurmountable risk”, the company said. It said that it would “continue to re-evaluate the deployment environment” and said it is still a strong backer of DSRC “because we believe it is the only proven and available technology for collision avoidance communication”. Toyota’s announcement means it is “imperative that the FCC provide clear guidance and certainty to the private sector companies and road operators that are trying to create a safer environment,” said the Intelligent Transportation Society of American, a group representing public, private and academic organizations. DSRC transmissions enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and broadcast precise vehicle information up to 10 times per second, including location, speed and acceleration. NHTSA has estimated that connected vehicles technologies could eliminate or reduce the severity of up to 80 % of crashes not involving impaired drivers. General Motors backs DSRC and has installed the technology on a small number of Cadillac CTS cars it has sold since 2017. In December 2016, the Department of Transportation proposed to mandate DSRC in all new vehicles. The Trump administration has not acted on the proposal. Last year, the acting head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Heidi King, said the agency’s “past research has centered around DSRC because that was the only technology available”. The NHTSA was “exploring other technologies” including cellular-based services being pursued by Ford, she said. Ford said in January it planned to deploy cellular vehicle-to-everything technology,  or C-V2X , in all new U.S. vehicle models beginning in 2022. The Transportation Department plans a meeting with automakers and state transportation officials about connected vehicle efforts, officials said. +++ 

+++ FORD predicted a “substantial improvement” in profitability in its struggling European region this year after posting a slim profit in the first quarter. The automaker’s European business earned $57 million in the first 3 months compared with a $119 million profit in the same quarter last year. The profitability drop was due to unfavorable exchange rates, Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said on an earnings call. Schanks said the profit “hadn’t been expected” but was a sign that Ford was heading in the right direction in the region. “For the full year, we expect to deliver substantial improvement in profitability in Europe versus last year, driven by favorable mix, higher net pricing and lower cost”, Shanks said. Last year Ford posted a $398 million loss in Europe. CEO Jim Hackett said on the same call that Ford’s future business in Europe will be leaner, more focused and will capitalize on the profitable areas of commercial vehicles and SUVs. Ford is carrying out a big restructuring in Europe including job losses, cutting slow-selling models and closing a gearbox plant in France as the company tries to reverse persistent losses. The $57 million first-quarter profit equates to a margin of 0.7 % but does not include costs associated with restructuring in the region. Ford has said it is aiming for a 6 % margin in Europe without giving a timeframe. Ford as a whole took a $600 million profit hit in the quarter, of which the “vast majority” were associated with the restructuring in Europe and South America, Shanks said. Ford’s European profits were buoyed by improvements in its successful commercial vehicle lineup, which includes the Transit range and the Ranger pickup, the executive said. Ford described its commercial vehicle profits as healthy. “This was offset partially by losses on passenger cars”, Shanks said. Ford this year will launch a new Kuga as well as a new small cross-over called the Puma, giving it fresh product in 2 key segments in Europe. Ford’s commercial vehicles will ensure Europe keeps growing in profitability despite associated costs with tougher European CO2 reduction targets arriving in 2020/21, 2025 and 2030, the company said. Ford headwinds in Europe include further costs associated with job cuts and restructuring, as well as the fallout from a possible disorderly exit by the UK from the European Union trading bloc. The UK is Ford’s biggest European market. Ford said in its most recent annual report that the cost to the company of the UK leaving without an EU deal could be $500 million to $1 billion in 2019, not including currency exchange effects. +++ 

+++ The rumors claiming the next-generation Nissan GT-R will come with a hybrid powertrain aren’t accurate, according to the man responsible for the model’s future. Hybrids are becoming increasingly popular all over the automotive spectrum, but GT-R buyers don’t want one. “Do you really, really want a hybrid for the GT-R? 99 % of our customers say ‘no, thanks’ “, explained Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist for Nissan Nismo division and the GT-R, in an interview. Electrifying the GT-R would make it more powerful, quicker, and undoubtedly more efficient. It would also make the coupe heavier, and considerably more expensive. Right now, it starts at approximately $101,000. Going hybrid would push its base price closer to the $200,000 threshold, Tamura revealed. At that price point, Nissan would lose most of its target audience, which is small but loyal, and it would have to pelt the GT-R in a completely different segment of the market. “Mr. Customer, you have a choice. You cannot have both”, Tamura said. In other words, the GT-R can be relatively efficient and expensive, or a little bit less efficient, still jaw-droppingly quick and much more affordable. He pointed out Nissan has historically released an all-new GT-R every 20 years. The current-generation car was released in 2007, so its replacement will likely ride on its underpinnings, which weren’t designed with a hybrid powertrain in mind. And, at the very least, Tamura’s comments confirm the GT-R will get a successor, which also kills the rumors claiming it will retire without a successor. +++

+++ Toyota said it will end production of its MARK X luxury sedan in December. Mark models have been the face of Toyota sedans since the 1968 debut of the Mark X’s predecessor, the Corona Mark II. Around 4.67 million Mark model cars have been sold so far. The Mark X was introduced in 2004 as the successor to the Mark II, but it has faced sluggish sales due to slowing demand for sedans in recent years. Earlier this month, Toyota released 2 special edition Mark X models; a 2-wheeldrive version and a 4-wheeldrive model. +++

+++ Daimler will begin building MERCEDES-AMG cars in China when the A 35 long-wheelbase sedan runs off the assembly line in Beijing toward the end of this year. Currently Daimler exports the Germany-built Mercedes-AMG A 45, a high-powered version of the A-class, to China. It’s the entry level AMG in China and is the performance subbrand’s top-selling AMG import. The A 45’s popularity indicates that young Chinese customers in particular are developing a taste for powerful cars even though much of China’s infrastructure consists of clogged city roads poorly suited for sports cars and traffic cameras that clamp down on speeding. Typically, even large luxury cars are equipped with underpowered engines, partly for tax reasons but it’s difficult to go fast on most Chinese roads so powerful cars are not needed. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said he recently had an encouraging conversation with the head of Lei Shing Hong (LSH) holding, the largest Mercedes dealer in China. “They want to focus more on AMG because they see a huge potential”, Zetsche said on the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show. Other dealers also see the potential, Zetsche said. LSH Holding’s dealerships sell about 30 % of all Mercedes’ sales in China. The company has opened a showroom in Beijing selling just AMG models and plans a second AMG showroom in Shanghai. The A 35 L 4Matic will be built at Daimler’s Chinese joint venture with BAIC. Its wheelbase is stretched by 60 mm. It is powered by a 306 hp, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine sourced from Daimler’s plant in Kölleda, Germany, and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. The A 45 has 381 hp. Nicholas Speeks, head of Mercedes-Benz sales for China, said more and more customers were being drawn to AMG cars. While some bought an S 63 or G 63 for the prestige of owning the most powerful version, others bought it for emotional attributes such as sound, he said. Speeks said demand for AMG cars in China was below the penetration rate of other major markets such as Germany and the U.S., but the country is among the top 5 simply because of the Chinese market’s huge size. To further spur interest, Mercedes will build an AMG brand experience center at the independently-run Zhejiang Circuit in Shaoxing. Here drivers will have the opportunity to try out their own cars in a high-speed environment, while dining at restaurants and overnighting at a hotel near the track. This will enable AMG customers used to heavy traffic in cities such as Beijing to push their vehicles to the limit, or alternatively to improve their skills under supervision from trained instructors. The move borrows a strategy from Porsche, which opened a similar experience center and race track next to the Shanghai Formula 1 circuit last year. Speeks said Daimler will not build other long wheelbase AMGs in China. The automaker also has no plans to produce Mercedes Maybach ultraluxury cars in the country even though these are popular with China’s superrich. “There is a tradition and a history behind AMG: German engineering out of Afalterbach”, he said. The A 35 L was an exception because Daimler already builds a long wheelbase A class in China, Speeks said. “We are well served with everything else including the Maybach, an S-class derivative, being built in Germany”, he said. +++

+++ The compact pickup segment is booming in the United States thanks in part to new entries from Ford and Jeep. MITSUBISHI hasn’t sold a pickup on American shores since 2009, but it’s open to the idea of challenging the Ranger and the Gladiator sooner or later. “We would like to have a pickup, but we’d have to have one that’s the right fit for Mitsubishi, for our demographic, and something that’s really competitive in the market”, said Mark Chaffin, the COO of Mitsubishi’s American division. The last pickup Mitsubishi sold in the United States was the Raider, a re-badged Dodge Dakota. It didn’t do well at all. The Japanese firm sold only 2,935 examples of the truck in 2008. That was admittedly a dark year for the automotive industry, but Toyota managed to sell nearly 145,000 examples of the Tacoma in 2008. While Mitsubishi still sells a pickup named L200 in many global markets, Americans are unlikely to see it in their showrooms. However, Mitsubishi is allegedly in charge of developing the platform that will underpin its next-generation pickup in addition to pickups sold globally by Nissan and Renault. The model built on that architecture could find its way to the United States, though it’s not expected to make its debut until the middle of the 2020s. Mitsubishi’s American dealers have repeatedly requested a pickup to sell, and executives have told them that they’re listening, but the company hasn’t made a firm commitment to returning to the segment. It hasn’t ruled out a comeback, either. +++ 

+++ Tesla chief executive Elon MUSK has reached a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a dispute over his use of Twitter, agreeing to submit his public statements about the company’s finances and other topics to vetting by its legal counsel, according to a court filing. If it is approved by a judge, the deal means the Tesla founder no longer faces the prospect of being held in contempt for violating an earlier settlement with the agency, which had required him to submit statements “material” to investors for prior review. The new agreement, disclosed in a filing in Manhattan federal court, lays out in more detail exactly what kinds of statements must be reviewed. The agreement lifts a cloud that has hung over Musk as Tesla tries to ramp up production of its most important vehicle, the Model 3, and make a profit at the same time. “It could really have turned out far worse for him”, said Stephen Diamond, a professor of securities law at Santa Clara University. “The consequences of thumbing his nose at the SEC could have been far worse for him and the company”. Tesla has struggled with logistics difficulties in delivering its Model 3 to global customers, a declining share price and lingering questions about the sustainability of demand. Earlier this week, the electric vehicle maker posted a $702 million loss, and warned of a loss in the second quarter. The SEC sued Musk last year after he tweeted on Aug. 7 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The agency said the tweet, which sent Tesla’s share price up as much as 13.3 %, violated securities laws. Musk’s privatization plan was at best in an early stage and financing was not in place. Musk settled the lawsuit, agreeing to step down as chairman and have the company’s lawyers pre-approve written communications, including tweets with material information about the company. In February, the SEC accused Musk of violating that settlement by sending a tweet about Tesla’s production numbers that had not been vetted by the company’s attorneys, and asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan to hold him in contempt. At an April 4 court hearing, the judge declined to rule on the contempt motion and told the SEC and Musk to work out their differences and come to a settlement. Musk’s lawyers have argued that the February tweet did not contain new information that was material to investors, and that Musk did not need pre-approval for all tweets about Tesla under the settlement. They also argued the settlement was too ambiguous for Musk to be held in contempt. The new agreement addresses that ambiguity by listing what kinds of statements must be vetted. They include statements about Tesla’s financial condition, proposed or potential deals, production numbers, performance projections, financing or lending arrangements and Musk’s own transactions in the company’s securities. It also gives the company’s board of directors the right to seek preapproval about additional topics if they believe doing so would protect shareholders’ interests. Diamond said the new language adds clarity to the original agreement and places significant restraints on Musk’s use of Twitter. “Any attempt by Musk to circumvent the process will be much more easily policed”, he said. Musk has been an outspoken critic of the SEC throughout his legal dispute with the SEC, which he once dubbed the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission”. In the early morning of Feb. 26, after the regulator filed its contempt motion, Musk tweeted: “Something is broken with SEC oversight”. Musk has been CEO of Tesla since 2008 and has more than 25 million followers on Twitter. +++

+++ Renault has told alliance partner NISSAN it intends to reject the reappointment of Nissan president Hiroto Saikawa if the Japanese automaker turns down its proposed business merger. Saikawa, who is also Nissan’s chief executive officer, strongly wishes to be reappointed at an upcoming general shareholder meeting, so tensions between Nissan and French automaker Renault over their possible merger will inevitably increase. Renault holds a 43.4 % stake in Nissan. If Renault can muster a majority of support at Nissan’s shareholder meeting scheduled for June, it would be in a strong position to be able to reject Saikawa’s reappointment as a director. Nissan has a 15 % stake in Renault with no voting rights. Nissan is prepared to carefully watch Renault’s approach and how strongly Renault will continue to push for a business merger in exchange for agreeing to keep Saikawa in his post, according to sources. Renault proposed a business merger to Nissan in mid-April, but Saikawa was negative toward the offer. There are strong calls within Nissan demanding the capital ties with Renault be reviewed and made more equal. According to sources, some Nissan officials believe that if Renault keeps forcefully pushing for a merger, “the Nissan-Renault alliance will collapse”. At Nissan, a committee of three outside directors is working on selecting candidates for company directors. According to sources, it has narrowed down this list to about 20 people, including Saikawa. By contrast, Renault proposed 3 candidates, including its Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and its Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bolloré. Senard was selected as a Nissan director at an extraordinary shareholder meeting earlier this month and he is tipped to be appointed vice chairman of the board of directors. However, Nissan has bristled at the suggestion of Bolloré, Renault’s top corporate executive, as a new candidate for a board position. This is due to concerns Renault’s grip on Nissan’s management could become too strong, just as it was when former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who hailed from Renault, dominated the Japanese automaker’s management. Nissan is considering choosing about 11 new directors. Some observers believe Renault’s decision to notify Nissan that it could sink Saikawa’s reappointment is aimed at pressuring Nissan to make personnel selections that would be to Renault’s advantage. +++ 

+++ Mitsubishi said that it will end sales of its PAJERO in Japan. Production of the SUV will cease in August, and sales will finish when stocks of the model run out. Released in 1982, the Pajero led the so-called recreational vehicle boom of the 1990s in Japan. The 4-wheeldrive Pajero performed well on rough terrain, finding success at the Dakar Rally, considered the world’s toughest auto race. The Pajero was the leading 4-wheeldrive vehicle of the Heisei era, with annual sales peaking at 84,000 units in 1992. In recent years, however, sales have been slow. Only 621 units were sold in 2018, or less than a 100th of the peak figure. Overseas sales of the Pajero will continue. +++ 

+++ Malaysia’s national carmaker PROTON has secured 1.88 billion ringgit ($455.10 million) in banking facilities from China Construction Bank to fund expansion around the region, it said in a statement. The loans are earmarked for Proton’s growth plans to be the number one automotive brand in Malaysia and number 3 in Asean by 2027, the company said. “Expansion to foreign markets is critical for sales growth while obtaining financing allows the company to invest in the many projects required to turn Proton into a truly global automotive brand”, chairman Syed Faisal Albar said. In August, the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns 49.9 % of Proton, had agreed to extend its existing partnership with the carmaker to upgrade its line-up of cars and help expand Proton’s presence in China and other international markets. Proton said it also exchanged documents with Pakistan’s Alhaj Automobile in Beijing, where Malaysia’s prime minister is attending the Belt and Road Forum. Proton signed a licensing and technical assistance agreement with Alhaj to build a manufacturing plant in Karachi with an initial investment of $30 million, to assemble and distribute Proton cars for the Pakistani market. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has revealed a concept of its next generation of the Kangoo light commercial van, which will appear next year as an all-new model, with a different platform than used in the current version, which has been in production since 2007. The new Kangoo was shown as a battery electric concept called the Kangoo Z.E. Renault said it is a “clean sheet” design. The concept is about 80 % of what the production version will look like. It will be built on a shared Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance platform, executives said. They declined to specify which platform would be used. The Kangoo is classified as a “car derived van”, meaning it is built on passenger car architecture. It ranked third in European car-derived van sales in 2018, with 73.123 sales, behind the Peugeot Partner with 89.412 sales and the Citroen Berlingo with 92.452 sales. The latest generation of PSA car-derived vans, including an Opel / Vauxhall version, went on sale toward the end of 2018. Renault said the Kangoo concept “was designed like a passenger car” with deeply sculpted sides, large wheel arches and pronounced “shoulders” at the rear. Renault design chief, Laurens van den Acker, said that earlier versions of the Kangoo had a “form follows function” design, but the next Kangoo’s styling was more fluid, dynamic and muscular, with more personality. The front-end design, with a wraparound light bar, reflects Renault’s passenger-vehicle styling. That theme has been carried over to facelifted versions of the Trafic and Master, which were also shown. Renault officials said they would not comment on whether there would also be a Mercedes-Benz Citan version of the new Kangoo. The 2 models are produced at Renault’s plant in Maubeuge, France, along with a Nissan version, the NV250. News reports in Germany last week said that Daimler, which has cross shareholdings with Renault and Nissan, was considering allowing production and engineering projects with Renault and Nissan to lapse. +++

+++ Ford said it will invest $500 million in U.S. electric vehicle startup RIVIAN , joining Amazon.com in backing the potential rival to Tesla. Ford said it will use Rivian’s skateboard (a chassis that bundles electric motor, batteries and controls) to build a new vehicle for North America. It did not provide details on what type of vehicle, and where or when it would be built. Michigan-based Rivian, founded in 2009, has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors. A company spokesman declined to provide a valuation for the company, but investor website Dealroom.com estimates Rivian’s value at $5 billion to $7 billion. Tesla’s market value is around $45 billion, while Ford’s market cap is just under $38 billion. Ford chief executive Jim Hackett said the deal with Rivian does not affect Ford’s discussions with Volkswagen about sharing the German automaker’s electric vehicle architecture. “It does not interfere with Volkswagen. This is a specific platform that helps us in areas we weren’t considering with others”. Rivian’s first products, a large pickup and a SUV, are slated to go into production in late 2020 and early 2021, CEO R.J. Scaringe said. Those 2 electric vehicles, along with the skateboard that Ford will use, will be built at Rivian’s plant, a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. Scaringe said Rivian and Ford “put this deal together over the last 6 months”. Announcement of the Ford deal followed reports that General Motors and Rivian had broken off discussions. Reuters reported in February that GM was in talks to invest in Rivian. In February, Amazon said it would lead a $700 million investment in Rivian. Amazon also said this week that it will partner with Ford in providing cloud-based transportation services. Joe Hinrichs, Ford president automotive, said Ford already is “in the middle” of developing a battery-electric version of its best-selling F-series pickup “and we didn’t want to slow that down”. Hinrichs will join the Rivian board. Ford’s said its investment in Rivian is separate from the No. 2 American automaker’s previously announced $11 billion investment in EVs, which include 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup by 2022. In March, Volkswagen and Ford signed a deal to develop mid-size pickup trucks and are continuing discussions about extending the alliance to include electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services. +++ 

+++ TESLA has started rolling out more upgrades to its Supercharger network. The company recently introduced its V3 Supercharger technology, capable of transferring power at 250 kW for the Model 3 and 200 kW for recent-production Model S and X vehicles with 100 kWh batteries. Owners of other vehicles will notice faster charge rates, as existing Supercharger stations will be upgraded to charge at 150 kW, an increase of 25 %. The company is rolling out another charge-boosting technology via over-the-air updates to vehicles, automatically pre-warming the battery when en route to support the peak charge rate upon arrival. +++

+++ TOYOTA made the call about a decade ago to focus on selling hybrid powertrains in Europe; and it turned out to be the right one. While many of its competitors are scrambling to electrify their lineups to meet stricter European Union CO2 emissions targets for 2020-2021, Toyota will probably be comfortably under its mandatory target, with more than 75 % of some models sold with cleaner-burning hybrid drivetrains. Under sales director Matthew Harrison, promoted to executive vice president this year, Toyota has steady sales growth in its Europe region, which includes Russia and Turkey. The automaker hit its 2020 target of 1 million vehicle sales in 2017 and Toyota expects growth to continue as it expands its SUV lineup and launches more plug-in hybrids. +++

+++ Ride-hailing giant UBER is aiming to raise $9 billion in its mammoth initial public stock offering that, while smaller than initially expected, still dwarfs most stock market debuts. The San Francisco-based company expects to be valued at $80.5 billion to $91.5 billion, falling well below prior estimates that rose as high as $120 billion, in a sign that investors may be taking a more cautious approach to ride-hailing after the stock performance of Uber’s rival, Lyft. Even so, Uber is on track for one of the largest IPOs in history. The company plans to sell 180 million shares for between $44 and $50 each. Lyft went public last month and its stock price fell 21% from its initial offering price of $72, and was selling for about $57. “With Lyft’s IPO being down more than 20 % in a market that’s hitting new highs every day, that’s a dynamic that probably has been factored in as well”, said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. Uber is part of a wave of technology companies that are going public, and Pinterest and Zoom both saw their stock prices climb substantially after their IPOs this month. Slack and Postmates are also waiting for their turn. Over the coming weeks Uber is likely to revise those figures as it launches its so-called road show, where it pitches the company and gets feedback from potential investors. It is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange next month. Uber also disclosed that PayPal plans to buy $500 million in stock at the IPO price, and that the companies will explore future commercial payment collaborations, including the development of Uber’s digital wallet. Uber gave potential investors a first look at its finances this month, revealing nearly $8 billion in losses over a decade. That mirrors the challenges faced by Lyft. But Uber also showed impressive growth. Its revenue totaled $11.3 billion in 2018, which was a 42 % increase from $7.9 billion in 2017, and far above its $495 million in revenue in 2014. That rapid growth has continued this year. On a preliminary basis, revenue rose to a range of $3 to $3.1 billion during the 3 months that ended March 31, compared with $2.6 billion a year ago. However, the company estimated losses of $1 billion to $1.1 billion for the first quarter. Uber chalks them up to operational expenses as the company continues to invest in its core platform, including spending on incentives and promotions. In the first quarter of 2018, Uber posted a one-time profit of $3.7 billion, helped by the sale of its operations in Russia and Southeast Asia, which brought in $3.2 billion, and an unrealized $2 billion gain from Uber’s investment in Didi, the transportation network company in China. Both Uber and Lyft face an uncertain path to profitability as they deal with intense competition, high costs to pay drivers, increased regulation by cites and a long, uncertain road to the development of autonomous vehicles. “We know that companies with large losses tend to be problematic for IPO investors”, said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, which provides institutional research and IPO exchange traded funds. “There is no doubt that Lyft is a factor in Uber’s valuation”. While Lyft is primarily a domestic ride-sharing business, Uber is building a ride-sharing platform that it can also use to monetize its freight and food delivery businesses, Ives said. “Lyft doesn’t have that”, Ives said. “It’s more of a one-trick pony right now”. Uber also lost market share after a series of embarrassing revelations and has been working to repair its reputation. It disclosed earlier this month that it faces a criminal investigation from the U.S. Justice Department into a cover-up of a massive computer break-in during 2016 that took personal information of millions of passengers and drivers, among other legal challenges. Uber stockholders also will be selling 27 million shares if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase stock. +++ 

+++ U.S. president Donald Trump pressed Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to have Japanese automakers produce more vehicles in the UNITED STATES , according to a readout of their recent meeting provided by the U.S. ambassador. The 2 discussed recent public announcements by Japanese car makers, including Toyota’s decision to invest more in U.S. plants. “We talked about the need to see more movement in that direction but I think the president feels very positive that we will see such movement because all the economics support that”, said Ambassador William Hagerty. Trump told a campaign rally that Abe said Japan would invest $40 billion in U.S. car factories, though Trump did not give details on the timeline for the planned investments. Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, said last month it would exceed a 2017 pledge to invest $10 billion over 5 years with a new commitment to reach nearly $13 billion over that period. Trump has prodded Japanese automakers to add more jobs in the United States as the White House threatens to impose tariffs of up to 25 % on imported vehicles, on the grounds of national security. Trump said it is possible that the United States and Japan could reach a new bilateral trade deal by the time he visits Tokyo in May, but he and Abe cited areas where they differ on trade. “We want to ensure that the U.S. has trading terms with Japan that are no less favorable than any other nation”, Hagerty said. He added that Trump is planning to attend the summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations set to take place in Osaka, Japan in June. Separately, Trump was optimistic trade talks with China would be successful, the ambassador said. +++

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