Trump Threatens Endless NAFTA Talks Amid Walk-Back on Autos

First Up 04/13/18

April 13, 2018

Mercedes Plans Electric S Class to Challenge Tesla
Mercedes-Benz is developing a battery-powered sedan about the size of its $90,000 flagship S class, challenging Tesla's Model S for high-end electric-car buyers. According to Automotive News, the new full-size sedan, dubbed EQ S, will be part of Daimler's push to introduce 10 all-electric vehicles by 2022. Click here to see a Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ SUV concept on display at the Paris auto show in Sept. 2016.The EQ line will be flanked by plug-in hybrid models offering a "totally different" battery range than today, while conventional vehicles will feature so-called mild hybrids with 48-volt technology in a shift away from pure combustion power. "All vehicles will be electrified," CEO Dieter Zetsche said. Mercedes had record deliveries and profit last year as it defended the global top luxury spot against BMW's namesake brand and Volkswagen AG's Audi marque. But surging costs for the development of battery-powered cars and new digital offerings, plus possible trade barriers in the U.S. and China -- Mercedes's two largest markets -- threaten to weigh on profit margins. For the full story on Mercedes’s plans, click here.

Trump Threatens Endless NAFTA Talks Amid Walk-Back on Autos
Donald Trump says he’s willing to “renegotiate forever” on Nafta, a threat that comes as his trade office again softens its marquee demand for changes to the auto sector. Bloomberg reports that the president, speaking Thursday at the White House, said renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico is progressing well but there isn’t a timeline for reaching a deal -- in part because the uncertainty of talks is already discouraging investment outside the U.S. “As long as we have this negotiation going, nobody’s going to build billion-dollar plants in Mexico,” Trump said. Despite his bluster, the U.S. has softened its negotiating position on the crucial issue of automotive content. American negotiators are now proposing that as much as 75 percent of car components be sourced from the three countries to quality for tariff exemptions under Nafta, down from its initial proposal of as much as 85 percent. Click here for the full story. And for news on movement by the White House to explore rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership over a year after withdrawing from it, click here.

VW's New Boss Mulls Asset Sales, Promises Streamlining
New Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess said he will consider asset sales and pledged to speed up the German carmaking giant's decision-making as it confronts a seismic industry change in technology while moving beyond its diesel-emissions scandal. Speaking at his first news conference as CEO at VW's headquarters here, Diess said he would look at the different assets in VW AG's portfolio, which includes motorcycle firm Ducatti and transmission maker Renk, and review whether keeping them makes sense. "We will review all options," Diess said, adding that this could include investing in the businesses or pursuing a sale. According to Automotive News,  Diess also said that VW would streamline into a more compact structure. The manufacturer will create a new COO post for the VW passenger-car brand to alleviate Diess's workload. "I’m confident that by selecting the right COO a lot of things will work right even without my direct involvement," Diess said. For more on what’s next for VW, click here.

10 of the Most Hated Car Trends That Need to Die in 2018
We’re reaching the end of the 2010s, and things are changing fast in the world of cars. Strides in safety, technology, and fuel economy; the rise of electric powertrains; and the return of brilliant design have made driving easier and more comfortable than ever before. But, says Automotive Cheat Sheet, everything can’t all be wine and roses, right? For every amazing new feature there’s something equally as groan-worthy out there. These are 10 automotive trends we’d like to see disappear sooner rather than later.  Number one on the list is color (or lack thereof). Until the late 1980s or so, the automotive world was an exciting universe of brilliant reds, deep blues, and a host of other eye-catching colors. Since then, our roads have become a boring sea of black, silver, white, and neutral tans. Many experts say this soul-crushing conformity has a lot to do with customers being worried about their car’s resale value. But with new developments in automotive paints and vinyl wrapping, we’re hoping drivers start taking some risks with car color before we die of boredom. For the other 9 trends that have to go, click here.

Move the Detroit Auto Show to October? It's Complicated
While organizers consider moving the the North American International Show in Detroit from January to October, new data on media coverage suggests the old format ain’t dead yet. The Detroit Free Press reports that the show generated far more press coverage around the world than any other U.S. auto show or Las Vegas’s trendy CES electronics show, and nearly as much as the traditional 500-pound gorilla, the Frankfurt auto show in Germany. The show’s future faces plenty of questions, but the figures underscore why the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, is not rushing into a decision to abandon the traditional January dates. “We’d only change if we can create more engagement with people for the vehicles and technologies at the show,” show executive director Rod Alberts said. “No decision has been made yet. We’re continuing to look at it. We’re not going to act suddenly.” A key argument for moving the show to October is the opportunity for attendees to test drive new vehicles and high-tech features, something that’s harder to do in deep winter. Click here for the full story, including how NAIAS compares to other auto shows.

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