DETROIT — A $7.8 million driving simulation and vehicle development center is being planned for suburban Detroit.

Multimatic Sales & Marketing Inc., a subsidiary of Canada-based Multimatic Inc., is building a “state-of-the-art driving simulator” called SimCenter, which will create 50 new jobs in Novi, Mich., according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The privately held auto supplier — most recently known for building Ford’s $450,000 GT supercar — will develop technology for hybrid and electric vehicles at the center, which will include conference rooms, equipment test cells, a control room and a test property preparation area. The MEDC said the simulator would be “the first of its kind in North America” and operate as an extension of the company’s other simulators in Canada and England.

“We welcome Multimatic’s commitment to Michigan and becoming a key contributor to the state’s expanding autonomous vehicle supply chain,” MEDC CEO Jeff Mason said in the Wednesday press release.

The company plans to develop two 24,800-square-foot buildings on eight acres, a few block north of Grand River Avenue, according to a city document.

The project is being boosted by a $603,500 Michigan Business Development Program grant, which helped lure the company away from a competing site in Canada. The Novi City Council is also considering a property tax abatement for the project.

Multimatic engineers complex mechanisms, suspension systems and body structures. The supplpier also designs and develops lightweight composite auto systems, according to its website. It operates a plant in Jackson, Mich., and office in Southfield, Mich. 

The titles and pay scale for the new jobs were not specified, but the MEDC called them “high-paying.” Job openings can be found on the company’s website.

Ford Motor Co. plans to start production of new luxury Lincoln models in China for that market as they are launched, starting with the new Corsair crossover later this year, to benefit from lower costs and avoid the risk of tariffs, a top executive said on Monday.

“It’s a huge, huge opportunity for Lincoln because we see China as Ground Zero for Lincoln given the size of the market and how well the brand has been received,” outgoing CFO Bob Shanks said at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York earlier this week. 

Ford has lower levels of localized production than rivals General Motors or Volkswagen Group, who make more vehicles in China for Chinese consumers, benefiting from lower labor and material costs, and avoiding tariffs in the burgeoning trade war between the United States and China.

Shanks said all new Lincoln models, with the exception of the Navigator assembled in Louisville, Ky., will also be produced in China.

He declined to say how much Ford will save through localized production.

Ford has been struggling to revive sales in China, the automaker’s second biggest market. Ford sales slumped 37 percent in 2018, after a 6 percent decline in 2017.

Shanks said that all of the problems the automaker experienced in China last year were related to the Ford brand, not Lincoln, which is popular with Chinese customers.

WASHINGTON — The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump is delaying a decision by up to six months on whether to impose tariffs on imported cars and parts to allow for more time for trade talks with the European Union and Japan.

Trump faced a Saturday deadline to make a decision on recommendations by the Commerce Department to protect the U.S. auto industry from imports on national security grounds.

Trump directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to pursue negotiations and report back within 180 days. He has said that some imported cars and trucks have weakened the U.S. economy and threaten to harm national security.

The auto tariffs face strong opposition in Congress including from many prominent Republicans.

Reuters and other new outlets reported earlier this week that Trump was expected to delay the decision.

Automakers have strongly opposed the tariffs, saying they would hike prices and threaten thousands of U.S. jobs. 

TOKYO — Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said on Friday that Osamu Masuko will step down as its CEO on June 21 and be replaced by Takao Kato, who is president of its operations in Indonesia.

Masuko, 70, will retain his role as chairman of the board, Mitsubishi Motors said in a statement, adding that Masuko and Kato will hold a press conference on May 20 to discuss the changes.

Japan’s sixth-largest automaker, in which Nissan Motor Co. holds a controlling stake, said this month it expects profit to fall to 90.0 billion yen ($821 million) in the year to March as it navigates slowing demand for cars, global trade frictions and the need to develop new technologies.

Mitsubishi’s partners — Nissan and France’s Renault SA — are meanwhile grappling with the fallout from the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the group’s former chairman, who is facing charges of financial misconduct in Japan.

Ghosn has denied all charges against him.

This story will be updated.

Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk told employees on Thursday that he will increase scrutiny of the company’s expenses in his latest initiative to cut costs at the electric car maker.

Tesla earlier this month closed a $2.7 billion offering of stock and convertible notes, giving it much needed cash as it ramps up production.

Musk in an email to employees, seen by Reuters, said the company’s net proceeds from the offering gave Tesla only 10 months to achieve breakeven at the rate it burned cash in the first quarter.

“That is why, going forward, all expenses of any kind anywhere in the world, including parts, salary, travel expenses, rent, literally every payment that leaves our bank account must (be) reviewed,” Musk said.

Tesla’s attempts to cut costs are not new. In April 2018, in an email sent to employees, Musk said he had instructed his finance team to “comb through every expense worldwide” to find possible cuts.

More recently, Tesla laid off 9 percent of its workforce in June 2018 and another 7 percent in January. 

The cost-cutting initiative comes after a tumultuous year for Tesla, which has seen analysts and investors cast doubt on its ability to produce, sell and deliver enough cars to make a sustainable profit.

ATLANTA — Nicholas Speeks who has steered Mercedes-Benz sales in China for more than six years, has been named CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA and head of its North America region.

Speeks, 60, succeeds Dietmar Exler, who is leaving the company after leading the brand to three straight U.S. luxury sales titles before a decline this year.

Exler, 51, announced his departure to the brand’s dealer board Thursday afternoon, has accepted a job outside the auto industry and is expected to remain based in Atlanta, a source said.

Speeks previously was president of Mercedes-Benz Japan and has worked for the company in Japan, Dubai, Vietnam and Germany.

The management shuffle at Mercedes-Benz USA comes amid a similar change at parent Daimler. Retiring CEO Dieter Zetsche will hand over the controls at Daimler to Ola Kallenius after the company’s annual general meeting on May 22.

With the move, Speeks heads from Mercedes-Benz’s No. 1 market to its second largest. He takes over as the U.S. auto industry braces for a slowdown. For the year, U.S. sales are forecast to come in below 17 million for the first time since 2014.

Mercedes is also feeling the pressure from a resurgent BMW. Powered by new and updated product launches this year, BMW bested Mercedes in U.S. deliveries in the first quarter. While BMW has racked up three consecutive months of sales gains this year, Mercedes extended its streak of consecutive monthly sales losses to five.

Speeks’ experience in China may be helpful as the global luxury automaker finds itself in the middle of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

Exler foreshadowed the challenges ahead for his successor when he spoke with Automotive News in April.

”When the market is growing, when there is more demand, it’s always a little easier,” Exler said. “Now, we are going back to hand-to-hand combat for market share. That makes everybody much more alert. Getting every product launch right is much more of an important topic in a tough market.”

The electric sports car that Hyundai is developing with Rimac will be a “game-changer” for the South Korean automaker and will influence the way it creates cars, said  Hyundai’s head of European design, Thomas Beurkle.

Hyundai Motor announced on Tuesday that it was investing 80 million euros ($89 million) to take an undisclosed percentage stake in Croatian electric sportscar developer Rimac.

Two models will result from the investment: a sports car for Hyundai’s N performance subbrand and a fuel cell car, likely for Kia.

The new sports car will be a benchmark that would “influence the thinking in the engineering teams in the design teams in the marketing teams,” Beurkle told Automotive News Europe at a Hyundai UK press event on Wednesday.

“You could say it is a marketing instrument on the outside but it’s also a game changer on the inside,” he said.

The design of the car needs to make it very clear it has a different drivetrain, rather have onlookers think it’s powered by a big combustion engine, Beurkle said.

“We have to speak to people who want to be advanced, who want to lead in terms of taste and style and also being less conventional,” he said. “It will be a real challenge for the design department to work on this.”

Beurkle said no decisions had been made as to which of Hyundai’s design centers globally would design the car, although he pointed out that traditionally its studios in Europe, Korea and the U.S. compete to have their design picked for new models.

He would not be drawn on whether the Rimac/Hyundai car would be more a hypercar priced more toward Ferrari territory in the manner of the Ford GT or would be more attainable.

Rimac is best known for electric hypercars, including its recently unveiled C2, which produces about 2,000hp.

The Croatian automaker also has a partnership with Automobili Pininfarina, owned by the Mahindra group of India, to supply the high-performance electric powertrain and battery technology to the Pininfarina Battista, a supercar unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.

Rimac was also responsible for adding an electric drivetrain to the classic Jaguar E-type used at last year’s wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and is also supplying the battery-electric system for Aston Martin’s Valkyrie hybrid electric supercar.

Last year Porsche bought a 10 percent stake in Rimac.

Hyundai was impressed with Rimac’s work balancing high-performance with the need to keep battery weight down while ensuring a usable range.

“That’s the big obstacle on performance EVs at the moment,” said Tyrone Johnson, the ex-Ford performance engineer recently hired as head of vehicle development at Hyundai Europe. “Rimac is doing things are a bit novel with respect the amount of energy you can store and the mass of these vehicles. That’s part of the reason for the cooperation,” he said.

Hyundai plans to offer 44 electrified models by 2025, targeting annual sales of about 1.67 million units. Kia aims to have 19 electrified vehicles in its range by 2022, comprising six full-electric cars, six plug-in hybrids, six full hybrids and one fuel cell vehicle.

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is looking to add muscle to its next generation of hybrid vehicles.

Over the next few years, the automaker plans hybrid versions of its F-150 pickup, Bronco SUV and Explorer crossover, among other vehicles. It promises they’ll be able to venture off road, tow boats and haul around multiple golfbags or suit cases.

To deliver on those capability claims, engineers developed a new transmission system, dubbed “modular hybrid technology,” that debuts later this year on the 2020 Explorer. The system, featuring an electric motor, clutch and torque converter, not only improve fuel economy on Ford’s larger vehicles, but also provides more power.

“Hybrids are more than just fuel efficiency,” Dave Filipe, Ford’s vice president of powertrain engineering, told media at a presentation this week. “Whatever solutions we provide have to be no-compromise, especially as we get into the larger vehicles. We need to create something different to get the right answer for this customer segment.”

The modular hybrid technology was designed to fit with rear-wheel-drive vehicles that contain Ford’s 10-speed transmission. Officials say the new system uses roughly 90 percent common parts as the standard 10-speed, but inserts an electric motor that provides low-speed torque and an extra boost of power.

On the upcoming Explorer hybrid, for example, the electric motor will put out 44 horsepower. When coupled with the vehicle’s 3.3-liter V-6 engine, it will generate 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque. It will also be able to tow up to 5,000 pounds and have a 500-mile range.

The fourth-generation lithium ion battery that powers the hybrids is roughly 33 percent smaller than the first generation that debuted on Ford’s 2005 Escape hybrid, and is packaged underneath both the Explorer’s second row seats to prevent it from taking up cargo space.

The modular hybrid technology also features a new exhaust gas heat recovery system that takes heat traveling down the exhaust pipe and recirculates it back to the engine and transmission system to help it warm up faster.

Smaller, front-wheel-drive vehicles, like the 2020 Escape hybrid and plug-in hybrid, will feature an electronic continuously variable transmission that can achieve a top speed of 85 mph on battery power. It will come in four modes, including an “EV charge” mode that directs the powertrain to charge the battery pack while the vehicle is being driven so that electric only range can be used later.

The new hybrid systems come as Ford invests $11 billion in electrification through 2022. It is planning 40 electrified vehicles, including 16 battery-electrics.

While the automaker plans pure EVs, like a Mustang-inspired crossover and a future electric F-150, Filipe said it was important to offer multiple forms of electrification to help drive down costs.

“It’s a much more affordable alternative to all electric vehicles,” Filipe said. “Our competitors don’t have a story in this space. We’re going to be aggressively chasing hybrids and making it work for customers.”

TOKYO – Nissan will keep Hiroto Saikawa as CEO in a reconstituted board that also gives Renault’s top two executives seats, setting the table for possible friction in the automakers’ alliance should shareholders approve the changes at next month’s annual meeting.

Saikawa was nominated for reappointment to an expanded Nissan board as part of a sweeping slate of new directors that would also include Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and CEO Tierry Bollore. Nissan announced the nominations in a news release on Friday.

The appointments must be approved at the annual shareholders meeting scheduled for the end of June. Nissan proposes that Saikawa be reappointed CEO at the board meeting afterward.

Saikawa’s nomination comes amid increasing speculation about his eventual resignation and at a time of open discord about the future direction of the 20-year-old alliance.

The Ghosn scandal has stoked pressure on Saikawa to step aside amid criticism that he failed to flag Ghosn’s alleged wrongdoing and then let the business suffer under his watch.

At this week’s financial results news conference, Saikawa dismissed a question about whether he might resign. He said his first priority is reviving the ailing automaker.

He said he will pass the baton at the “appropriate time but cannot say when.”

Support from Renault, Nissan’s top shareholder with a 43.4 percent stake, may also be wavering. Renault has a keen interest in Nissan management, but Senard and Bollore will be the only two representatives from Renault on the reconstituted board.

Saikawa was frank about his deepening disagreement with Senard about the future of the alliance. Saikawa said the Renault chairman, who is also a director at Nissan, wants to pursue structural integration or a merger of the two automakers.

That’s a non-starter for Saikawa, who wants to keep Nissan more independent. “Integration could actually undermine the internal strengths we have,” Saikawa said. “I have been very consistently very negative against this. That’s my position.”

Bigger board

Among the boardroom changes announced Friday, Nissan would expand the board to 11 directors from the nine it had before last year’s arrests of former chairman Carlos Ghosn and American director Greg Kelly on charges of financial misconduct. Seven of the new members would be independent outside directors.

Currently, Nissan has only three external directors: Jean-Baptiste Duzan, a former Renault executive thought to reflect the French carmaker’s interests; Masakazu Toyoda, a former Japanese government bureaucrat; and Keiko Ihara, a race car driver.

The company wants an independent majority in line with the recommendations of an outside panel charged with improving corporate governance in the wake of the Ghosn scandal.

Duzan would step down, while Ihara and Toyoda stay on.

Outside directors joining them would include Bernard Delmas, chairman of Nihon Michelin Tire Co.; Andrew House, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment; Yasushi Kimura, an advisor at JXTG Holdings, and Jenifer Rogers, general counsel for Asia at Asurion Japan Holdings.

Moody’s Investors Service said it upgraded Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ credit rating to one level below investment grade.

“FCA’s upgrade reflects the continued improvements in its credit metrics and Moody’s expectation that FCA will be able to sustain these credit metrics even in a more challenging environment with softening demand in some of its key markets and additional costs to comply with upcoming emission requirements,” Moody’s analyst Falk Frey said in a statement Wednesday.

S&P Global Ratings raised FCA’s rating to a similar level in February. Fitch, another credit rating service, upgraded FCA to investment grade in November.

Investment-grade ratings from S&P and Moody’s would open the door to further investor confidence in the automaker, which is completing its first 12 months under the leadership of CEO Mike Manley.

Moody’s said FCA’s reduced debt and improved profitability in North America led to the upgrade. Moody’s concluded FCA could be less affected than other companies by possible tariffs between the U.S. and China or Europe because of the automaker’s small market share in China and small share of vehicles imported from Europe.

FCA said its first-quarter adjusted net earnings fell 41 percent to 570 million euros ($637 million) while total revenue slipped 5 percent to 24.5 billion euros ($27.4 billion). The automaker has stuck by its 2019 forecast of adjusted earnings of 6.7 billion euros ($7.5 billion).

An FCA spokesman told Automotive News that the company had no further comment beyond Moody’s analysis.