Toyota Kentucky Plant Starts Production of RAV4 Hybrid

First Up 01/10/20

Beltway Talk: AIADA's Year-End Sales Review with Cox Automotive's Charlie Chesbrough 
In this episode of Beltway Talk, Cox Automotive’s Charlie Chesbrough gives Beltway Talk listeners an overview of 2019 auto sales and a preview of what they can expect to see in 2020. Join us as we find out how car sales matched up against trucks, which luxury automakers saw a profitable December, and how Nissan’s results were impacted by a global scandal. Listen in and subscribe here. 

Toyota Kentucky Plant Starts Production of RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky began production of the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid crossover this week, reports Automotive News. The RAV4 Hybrid had its best sales year to date in 2019 at 92,525, up 92.3 percent from 2018. The plant in Georgetown, Ky., Toyota's largest in the world, is known for producing the Toyota Camry and now builds four electrified vehicles, including the Avalon Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, and Lexus ES 300h. "We are excited to see the past nine months of preparation come to life with the completion of our first Kentucky-built 2020 RAV4 Hybrid," TMMK President Susan Elkington said in a statement. Toyota's global goal by 2025 is to offer an electrified option -- hybrid, plug-in, fuel cell or battery-electric – on all Toyota and Lexus models. TMMK has more than 8,000 full-time employees and more than 9 million square feet of floor space. Read more here. 

Japan Seeks Interpol 'Red Notice' for Ghosn's Wife
Japan is seeking an Interpol "Red Notice" for Carole Ghosn, the wife of Carlos Ghosn, the latest move by the country to put pressure on the former auto executive after his surprise escape from trial. According to Bloomberg, investigators have asked Interpol for the notice, which could restrict Carole Ghosn’s movements outside of Lebanon, where she joined her husband, national broadcaster NHK reported, citing unidentified sources. Interpol has already issued a Red Notice for Carlos Ghosn at the request of the Japanese government. If one is granted for Carole, it would make it difficult for her to leave Lebanon, although, as Interpol stresses, "a Red Notice is an international wanted persons notice, but it is not an arrest warrant." Ghosn, the former chairman of Renault and Nissan, made his way to Beirut at the end of December after fleeing Japan to escape what he called the country’s “hostage” legal system. Read more here. 

Wall Street Starts to Turn Cautious on Tesla with Two Downgrades as Shares Near $500
Two Wall Street firms lowered their ratings on Tesla, backing away from Elon Musk’s electric automaker after its recent swift share climb, reports CNBC. The stock has doubled in the past three months, up 101% in a run fueled by optimism about its vehicle deliveries, expanding production and overall profitability. Baird downgraded Tesla to neutral from outperform on Thursday before the bell, while CFRA downgraded Tesla to sell from hold after the bell Wednesday. Bernstein technology analyst Toni Sacconaghi also said the stock’s run-up may have gone too far. “We have become incrementally cautious on the stock, given its huge recent surge in price,” Sacconaghi said in a note to investors Thursday. Read more here. 

Ford's F-Series Remains America's Best-Selling Vehicle, But in 19 States These Models Were More Popular 
If vehicle sales were an election, the Ford F-series pickup would win the popular vote every year. The F-series remained America’s best-selling vehicle in 2019, keeping a title it’s held for several decades. But, reports USA Today, while the vehicle was the most popular model in 31 states in 2019, according to car-research site Edmunds, several other models topped the F-series in the other 19 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. And with the exception of California or Florida, every state's most popular vehicle was a pickup or an SUV. "It just shows as a nation how truck dependent we really are," Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickup placed first in five states, all west of the Mississippi River, including Arkansas, Arizona, and Nevada. In 2019, the Ram surpassed the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time as the nation's second-best-selling vehicle. Read more here. 

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Take Luxury Sales Title Again
Mercedes-Benz once again is ready to sit atop the luxury throne due in large part to strong sales of its sport-utility vehicles, reports The Detroit Bureau. The battle for the annual luxury sales crown appears to have been won by Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, which sold 2.34 million passenger cars in 2019, a 1.3% increased, edging out perennial competitor BMW. Daimler laid claim to the title gain with its ninth consecutive year of record sales, the company reported Thursday. However, the BMW Group, which includes BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce, outsold Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands. The Bavarian automaker reported it sold 2.52 million vehicles globally compared with Mercedes-Benz Cars 2.46 million vehicles last year. However, it hasn’t provided a full breakdown yet to determine if Mercedes has indeed retained the luxe title. Read more her

Around the Web

All the Cars That Died in 2020 [Jalopnik]

Cars You Can Bring Into the U.S. in 2020 [Car and Driver]

Right-Hand-Drive Cars: Not Just for Mail Carriers [NY Times

The Next Big Thing in Transportation? The 'Un-Car' [Fast Company]