Smart windshields seen as the new ad billboard inside a car

LAS VEGAS — The next frontier in digital advertising may be the windshield. Automakers, technology companies and glass manufacturers are teaming up to turn the display that graces the front of an iPhone into the windshield of a car — one that can show ads, directions and vehicle information to the person behind the wheel.

The advent of connected cars is creating a new sales battleground, and using a vehicle’s windshield may be the next way to pitch more products and services to consumers. Bobile and data-driven services in autos are expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue by 2030. At least part of that will be spent projecting information to drivers and passengers right before their eyes.

“When you think of a person driving and what your needs are when you’re on a typical trip, it’s food, it’s fuel and it’s rest stops,” said John Butler, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. “Owning the inside of the car is critical, it’s really where the money is made. The real value is locked up in the ad opportunity.”

Here’s how a smart windshield may work. A driver that’s close to running out of gas would see an alert pop up that notes the fuel situation and offers to find a nearby gas station. The car’s virtual assistant will offer a choice, again on the windshield, of two options, including directions to a station where the driver is eligible for a free cup of coffee — an ad placed by the gas company that fits with the driver’s buying patterns, also known by his smart car.

Corning Inc. is starting to sell carmakers the glass used in Apple Inc.’s iPhones for windshields and in-car entertainment systems. The company said the durability and thinness of the glass means that any image projected onto it is sharper than onto a typical windshield. While the product is less than 10 inches wide, Corning is working to expand it to a full windshield-size display.

“They could be here in less than two years,” Corning Chief Technology Officer Jeff Evenson said in an interview Thursday at CES, the consumer technology show in Las Vegas. “We’re making the car much more active to set things up for these kinds of services.”

Connected cars

Turning a car windshield into a billboard is part of broader efforts by automakers and tech companies to transform vehicles into connected devices. Multiple companies at CES this week have announced deals and partnerships that use software, digital voice technology and cloud computing to handle everything from automatically scheduling a maintenance appointment to ordering a takeout pizza while on the road.

Automakers such as BMW AG, Hyundai Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. already offer basic heads-up displays near the windshield in some models that show information such as the vehicle’s speed. Google parent Alphabet Inc., through its Waze navigation app, suggests nearby restaurants and points of interest during your drive, as does TripAdvisor Inc. The next step is merging these two ideas: projecting points of interest onto your windshield.

Eventually mapping and navigational data could be superimposed onto the road in front of the driver, much in the way that Google Street View currently displays information about an area on a static image. BMW, Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG acquired Nokia Oyj’s Here mapping unit in 2015 to ensure they were no longer dependent on Google for maps. Intel Corp. announced Tuesday it had acquired a 15 percent stake in Here.

“This is exactly the sort of thing the high-end carmakers are promoting as part of their highly integrated, immersive ‘cockpit’ concepts,’” said Richard York, an executive at chip designer ARM Holdings Plc who is responsible for automotive sales.

Safety concerns

The question of how the technology is regulated remains open, given concerns about driver distraction. For now, suppliers are eager to promote heads-up displays as safety tools. For example, the speed and location of vehicles in a car’s blind spot might be projected onto the windshield.

“We’re going to bring the safety aspect of the vehicles” into the augmented reality products, said Joseph Yoon, head of LG Electronics’ automotive r&d team.

Boosters also say a windshield display is a safer alternative than drivers taking their eyes off the road to glance down and tap a dashboard infotainment system or check a smartphone. For many years BMW, Volkswagen and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc worked with the Munich-based startup Metaio GmbH to investigate possible applications for augmented reality technology in cars, according to someone familiar with Metaio’s business.

The main hurdle to superimposing an enhanced image for the driver was the “tracking problem” — establishing the direction of a driver’s gaze and adapting the image projected onto the windscreen accordingly, the person said. Metaio was acquired by Apple last year, and ended its contracts with the carmakers.

People usually understand information presented in an augmented reality format more quickly than on paper or a smartphone, according to Sunny Webb, who leads Accenture Plc.’s r&d efforts in augmented and virtual reality. That makes AR an appealing medium through which to present location-based ads, as well as safety and contextual information to drivers.

“Being able to overlay content in a windshield is a really interesting application,” she said. “There’s a lot of energy going into how to distribute content to passengers and drivers.”

First steps

Meanwhile, Harman International Industries Inc., the in-car infotainment systems giant in the process of being acquired by Samsung Electronics Co., is moving into heads-up displays. In December it announced an investment in Navdy Inc., a San Francisco-based maker of a projection display that sits on the dashboard in front of the windshield and provides navigation guidance, car behavior data and smartphone alerts. The two companies will start selling a jointly branded heads-up display this year.

Automotive supplier Magna International Inc. also is likely to unveil an augmented reality product with a major German carmaker this year, according to someone familiar with the plan.

Automakers also are considering the ability to push content such as video in front of passengers in addition to mapping or road services as a way to generate more revenue from each vehicle.

“We want to have our direct customer relationship delivering premium services to them and being their direct contact,” Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s head of r&d, told reporters at CES. “That’s the clear goal for a premium car manufacturer.”

Toyota defended by Japan after Trump broadside over Mexican plant

TOKYO — The Japanese government defended Toyota Motor Corp. on Friday as an “important corporate citizen” of the U.S., after President-elect Donald Trump singled out the automaker and threatened to slap punitive tariffs on its Mexico-built cars.

Trump has repeatedly hit out at U.S. companies for using lower-cost factories abroad at the expense of jobs at home. He has slammed U.S. automakers, including Ford which this week scrapped a planned $1.6 billion Mexico plant.

But the attack Thursday on Toyota is his first against a foreign automaker. “Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax,” Trump tweeted.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday that Toyota was an “important corporate citizen,” while Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko stressed the contribution of Japanese companies to U.S. employment.

“We think the impact on business performance is limited,” Akira Kishimoto, a senior analyst at JP Morgan, said in a note.

“A cool judgement is needed.”

Toyota’s exposure to Mexico is limited, Kishimoto said, adding that even an “extreme case” tariff of 20 percent would hit its operating profit by around 6 percent. Trump has threatened a 35 percent tariff on cars imported from Mexico.

Toyota is just one of a host of companies operating in Mexico. It has an assembly plant in Baja California, where it produces the Tacoma pick-up truck, and where it could increase production.

Trump’s tweet, however, confused Toyota’s existing Baja plant with the planned $1 billion plant in Guanajuato, where construction got under way in November, days after the election.

The Guanajuato plant will build Corollas and have an annual capacity of 200,000 when it comes online in 2019, shifting production of the small car from Canada.

Baja produces around 100,000 pickup trucks and truck beds annually. Toyota said in September it would increase output of pick-up trucks by more than 60,000 units annually.

Other Japanese automakers and suppliers in Mexico include Nissan, which has been in Mexico for decades after choosing it as the site for its first assembly plant outside Asia. Nissan has two facilities there, producing 830,000 units in the year to March 2016.

Honda operates two assembly and engine plants with a total annual capacity of 263,000 vehicles, and a transmission plant with an annual capacity of 350,000 units.

Toyota suppliers Aisin Seiki Co. and Denso Corp. have two and three plants, respectively, in Mexico. Parts makers tend to cluster near assembly plants under the industry’s “just-in-time” production practice.

Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017

Penske to buy U.K. used-only dealership group CarShop

Penske Automotive Group Inc.’s two-year plan to build a network of used-only dealerships is closer to reality, in Europe.

Penske said today that it has signed an agreement to buy CarShop, a retailer in the United Kingdom known for selling used cars at fixed retail prices.

CarShop, in business since 1999, has five large-scale stores in the U.K. and a 15-acre vehicle preparation center capable of reconditioning 45,000 vehicles a year.

The group sells “over 20,000” used vehicles a year and the deal will generate about $340 million in estimated annual revenue, Tony Pordon, Penske’s executive vice president of investor relations and corporate development, told Automotive News.

“The acquisition of CarShop furthers our diversification strategy within the transportation services industry, and is complementary to our existing core auto retail business,” Chairman Roger Penske said in a statement.

Penske will retain both CarShop’s 500 employees and the name, said Pordon.

Market muscle

Similar to the U.S., used vehicle sales in the U.K. are “nearly three times the size of new vehicle sales on an annual basis,” said Penske.

For that reason, he is looking to expand Penske Automotive’s ownership of used-only stores.

Last month, the company said it was buying CarSense, which has five used-only stores in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Jersey markets. That deal is expected to generate about $350 million in estimated annual revenue for Penske.

Terms were not released for either the CarShop or CarSense deals. Both are expected to close in the first quarter and will strengthen “our market position in our two largest markets while providing scalable future growth opportunities,” Penske said.

Penske has said it plans to double CarSense’s U.S. footprint to 10 stores from five in the next 18 to 24 months.

Pordon said it is critical to diversify so that Penske is “not just tied to one market and not just tied to new car sales.”

In the U.S., CarSense will target selling used vehicles less than 5 years old. In the U.K., it will seek 2- to 6-year-old used vehicles.

Used-only stores

Penske, of suburban Detroit, is the latest publicly owned auto retailer to plot a strategy that includes stand-alone used-only stores.

In October, AutoNation Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said it will open the first of a series of used-only stores, called AutoNation USA, around May in Houston.

Sonic Automotive Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., launched its used-only EchoPark stores in 2014. Now, it is moving beyond its initial five EchoPark stores in Denver to markets elsewhere in Colorado plus Texas and the Carolinas. In September it bought Auto-Match, which has four used-only stores in Georgia and Florida. Sonic will convert those to EchoPark stores by end of 2017.

Asbury Automotive Group Inc., of Duluth, Ga., launched Q auto, a used-only brand, in 2014 with stores in Tampa, Fla.

Penske ranks No. 2 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with new-vehicle retail sales of 233,524 units in 2015.

AutoNation ranks No. 1, with new retail sales of 339,080 in 2015; Sonic ranks No. 4, with new retail sales of 138,129 in 2015; and Asbury ranks No. 7, with 105,981.

When Trump turns to FCA — and he will — here’s a response

In an effort to increase my efficiency, allow me to preemptively respond on Fiat Chrysler’s behalf to the Twitter attack that hasn’t yet come — but probably soon will — from President-elect Donald Trump.

Since I don’t know exactly what he’s going to say (Let’s admit it: I have a lot of company in that regard), allow me to share some basic facts:

Yes, FCA imported 386,000 vehicles from Mexico into the U.S. in 2016, second only to General Motors’ 438,000 vehicles, according to CNBC. That’s about 42 percent of the 926,376 vehicles it sold in the U.S. in 2016.

Yes, FCA last year ended production of the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot in Illinois, and will replace both in 2017 with a new Compass built in Toluca, Mexico. Production starts at the end of this month. The Illinois plant will be retrofitted to build Jeep Cherokees, which makes room in Toledo, Ohio, for more Jeep Wrangler production.

Yes, FCA makes all of its heavy-duty Ram pickups and its regular-cab Ram 1500 pickups in its plant in Saltillo, Mexico, and ships them into the U.S.

Yes, FCA builds all of its full-size Ram ProMaster vans — including the thousands it has already sold to the United States Postal Service — in Saltillo, and ships ’em up, two at a time, on the back of flatbed trucks. And finally…

Yes, FCA employs about 11,600 people in its Mexican assembly, stamping, and engine plants, according to the automaker’s website.

So, with all that said, and lest anyone think I’m being too positive, consider this:

No, FCA has no plans to build another plant in Mexico.

No, FCA’s employment in the U.S. hasn’t shrunk, it’s grown, at least since its 2009 bankruptcy. Of the 84,600 employees the company says it has on the continent, about 62,000 of them are in the U.S. Oh, and almost all of FCA’s U.S. employees are concentrated in the industrial Midwest that won Trump the election.

No, FCA doesn’t owe the government any money from its bankruptcy. It paid off the high-interest loans the government gave it early — way early — back in 2011. There was more than a billion dollars that was given to the old Chrysler pre-Chapter 11 by the Bush administration that wasn’t paid back, because it was lumped in with what became OldCarCo’s other creditors.

No, a proposed “Border Tax” aimed at discouraging vehicle importation from Mexico won’t hurt FCA nearly as much as it will hurt its dealers and its customers. FCA still has more debt than it does cash. It can’t and won’t absorb a “border tax,” or move its Mexican operations to the U.S. Instead, it would simply pass that tax along to its dealers and customers, taking money out of their pockets and cutting sales.

And:

No, FCA is not an American company. It’s not even an Italian company anymore. It’s Dutch, or maybe English, depending on whose laws you choose to recognize. And it’s the automaker which — because of how far behind it is on complying with now-endangered fuel economy standards — stood to gain the most from Trump’s election in November. That’s probably the main reason FCA’s stock (NYSE: FCAU) has risen 42 percent since then.

Of course, none of this will matter when the president-elect aims his next automotive tweets beyond Ford, GM and Toyota.

Fact and logic seem a futile response.

But there are countless emojis on Twitter that are far more direct. And appropriate.

Just use your imagination.

Lincoln triples China sales

Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln luxury brand set a sales record in China in 2016, increasing threefold from a year ago.

Lincoln sold 32,558 vehicles in the world’s largest auto market last year, compared to 11,630 sold in 2015. By comparison, Lincoln sold 111,724 vehicles in the U.S. last year, good for eighth place among luxury makes, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

“The momentum is both gratifying and encouraging,” Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln’s president, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that clients are recognizing the superior experiences and vehicles that Lincoln offers.”

Compared to its luxury rivals, Lincoln was late to enter the China market, but it’s been aggressively expanding there since it opened its first dealership in November 2014.

It ended 2016 with 65 dealerships that sell the MKZ, MKC, MKX, Navigator and new Continental sedan.

CEO Mark Fields has said China could eventually exceed the U.S. as Lincoln’s largest sales market, and Bloomberg last year reported Ford is in talks with partner Changan Automobile Group about producing the brand’s vehicles in Chongqing.

Nissan lays out plans for electrified, fatality-free future

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has big plans for an electrified and automated future.

At a Thursday keynote address at CES, Ghosn listed an array of efforts the company is making to move toward zero emissions and zero fatalities. They included autonomous vehicle testing in Japan, an upcoming Nissan Leaf with autonomous capabilities, a human-operated help center for autonomous vehicles, and the integration of Microsoft’s connected car platform in Renault-Nissan Alliance vehicles.

Ghosn said the combined resources of Renault-Nissan Alliance as well as Mitsubishi, in which Nissan holds a controlling stake, allows the automaker to heavily invest in new technology. “No shortcuts, no blindspots,” he said.

The announcements are part of Nissan’s roadmap for autonomy, which envisions a gradual increase of autonomous development, from single lane highway capability, to multi-lane, to city driving to full autonomous. Ghosn predicts Nissan vehicles will hit the third stage by 2022 or 2023, but did not give a timeline for full autonomy.

Mobility advances

Nissan’s initiatives focus on the development of autonomous vehicles on a short timeline. The automaker will begin testing self-driving cars on Japan roads in partnership with Japanese tech company DeNA with the goal of testing a driverless taxi service in Tokyo in 2020.

Though a release date was not given, the next generation Leaf will be equipped with ProPilot, a system that enables single-highway autonomous driving.

The automaker is also attempting to address growing pains during the development process. Its Seamless Autonomous Mobility system, developed in partnership with NASA, provides human-powered solutions to situations where an autonomous vehicle cannot act, like construction zones or blocked roadways. When a vehicle encounters such situations, it alerts SAM, and a mobility manager who can access the car’s location maps a solution and sends it back to the vehicle, relieving drivers from having to take over.

“It’s for situations when the AI cannot handle it, and you want HI, human intelligence, to take over,” said Ogi Redzic, senior vice president of connected vehicles and mobility services at Nissan, said in an interview with Automotive News.

Microsoft partnership

Microsoft is building a connected car platform to provide cloud services to vehicles. Volvo and BMW have agreed to use parts of Microsoft’s technology with the integration of Skype and Office 365, respectively, but Renault-Nissan will be the first automaker to use the entire suite.

The platform is part of a partnership between the two companies inked in September, allowing Renault-Nissan to access Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Vehicles employing Microsoft technologies could be on the market as early as 2018.

Using Microsoft’s cloud technology, the software allows automakers to access the vehicle’s data to predict maintenance as well as driver data for research, operate Microsoft’s productivity services (including Office 365 and the virtual assistant Cortana) and provide realtime and contextual navigation. The data produced and collected by the platform can also be used for machine learning in autonomous driving systems, the company said.

“It’s an agile, open platform,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, in an interview with Automotive News. Automakers “can choose what pieces they want to work with, but it all works together.”

Subaru packs freshened WRX, WRX STI with more safety, tech

PHOTO GALLERY: 2018 Subaru WRX STI and WRX








PHOTO GALLERY >>

Subaru lifted the covers off of the refreshed 2018 WRX and WRX STI days before they debut at the Detroit auto show. The 2018 WRX and WRX STI feature a restyled front fascia with a larger lower grille, giving it a more aggressive look. Both variants are based on the previous Impreza platform.

The newest WRX is powered by the same motor as the 2017 model, a 268-hp, 2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. An automatic transmission, Subaru’s Sport Lineartronic CVT with manual mode, will be optional.

The 2018 WRX will be available in three trims: base, Premium and Limited.

The WRX also features new front and rear suspension tuning which gives the car improved steering stability and ride comfort. The WRX’s electric power steering was updated to provide “an even smoother, more natural feel,” Subaru said.

A new performance package is available on the WRX Premium, which includes Recaro eight-way power seats, red brake calipers and upgraded Jurid brake pads and deletes the moonroof to reduce weight.

The more powerful WRX STI features a 305-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine, the same displacement as the 2017 model year, and is matched with a hand-built, Aisin six-speed transmission. It also features Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential symmetrical all-wheel drive, which now uses electronic control. The WRX STI will be available in base and Limited trims.

The WRX STI is also equipped with the revised suspension tuning found on the WRX, but also features a Brembo Performance Brake System, with yellow brake calipers, that use stronger monoblock 6-pistion calipers in the front, monoblock two-piston calipers in the rear and larger, drilled rotors for better heat dissipation, Subaru said.

The WRX STI rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, a first for the model, Subaru noted.

Inside, the 2018 WRX and WRX STI receive upgraded interior materials, a rear seat armrest with cup holders, redesigned interior door grips and faster remote trunk opening.

Thicker door glass, revised door sealing and a foam-filled windshield header beam have been added to give the cars a quieter ride inside.

There’s also a standard 5.9-inch high-definition multi-function display, up from 4.3 inches, while the WRX Premium receives a Subaru Starlink 7-inch multimedia unit, up from 6.2 inches. Both WRX STI trims get the 7-inch display. The WRX Limited, when equipped with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, now features Vehicle Hold (AVH) and a new EyeSight Assist Monitor (EAM).

AVH, which replaces Hill Holder and Hill Start Assist functions, holds the vehicle on all road grades, not only inclines, Subaru said. AVH can “help reduce driver fatigue by holding the car at traffic lights and then can seamlessly transition to acceleration,” Subaru noted.

EAM uses LED indicators to display EyeSight status and alerts on the windshield.

WRX Limited and all STI models will also feature redesigned LED steering responsive headlights.

The standard WRX adds heated exterior mirrors, a feature that’s standard on the rest of the WRX lineup. Also standard across the board are new roof rack mounting brackets.

The new models are set to arrive at dealerships this spring. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

U.S. sales of the WRX and WRX STI totaled 33,279 in 2016, down 1.3 percent from 2015.

Audi confirms Super Bowl ad buy, becomes third auto brand in the game

Audi said it will advertise in the Super Bowl for the second straight year as Volkswagen’s luxury brand continues to make the game a key part of its media strategy.

An Audi spokeswoman on Thursday confirmed the buy to Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, but did not provide creative details. The spot will be handled by Audi’s lead creative agency, San Francisco-based Venables Bell & Partners.

Audi is the third automaker to confirm a Super Bowl ad buy, following Kia and Honda. Automakers typically use Super Bowl spots to plug new models. Audi has a busy year planned on the new product front.

Audi sat out the 2015 game, ending a streak of seven straight appearances. The Super Bowl and its massive TV audience has played a key role in Audi’s pursuit of a “progressive luxury” positioning.

Last year Audi ran a sentimental spot called “Commander,” featuring a retired astronaut driving the Audi R8 V10 plus. The soundtrack was David Bowie’s “Starman.”

It proved to be a timely choice, as news on the singer’s legacy spiked in the wake of his January 2016 death. Audi drew attention from the likes of the Washington Post, which reported that the ad “gets an extra punch from the recent death of David Bowie, but one suspects it would have been just as impactful even if Ziggy Stardust still walked this earth.”

Audi this week reported that 2016 U.S. sales grew 4 percent in 2016 to 210,213 vehicles, which surpassed 2015 as the brand’s best annual performance.

Trump threatens Toyota over plans to sell Mexico-built Corolla in U.S.

President-elect Donald Trump threatened to impose a “big border tax” on Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles imported to the U.S. from Mexico, the latest in a series of attacks on automakers.

Trump, who has also threatened General Motors and Ford Motor Co. with tariffs on Mexican-made vehicles, made reference on Twitter to Toyota’s plans for a “new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S.”

“NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

In his tweet, Trump appears to confuse Toyota’s plans for a $1 billion plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, with its existing factory in Baja, the western Mexico region that abuts California. The Baja plant in Tijuana builds the Toyota Tacoma pickup, while the planned Guanajuato plant in central Mexico is slated to begin Corolla production in 2019.

Toyota announced plans to build the Guanajuato factory in April. The plant, which is set to employ about 2,000 people, would have production capacity of up to 200,000 vehicles annually, helping to make up for Corolla output being phased out at an Ontario plant that will begin building the RAV4.

The company will continue to build the Corolla at its Blue Springs, Miss., plant, which built 170,177 vehicles in the first 11 months of 2016, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Toyota sold 360,483 Corollas in the U.S. last year.

Toyota said in September it will invest $150 million to expand the Tijuana plant. The Tacoma leads the U.S. midsize pickup segment in sales but has been pinched with tight supplies as new competitors enter the market. The Baja investment was intended to help Toyota free up more capacity to build full-size Tundra pickups at a plant in San Antonio.

A border tax could prove problematic for the Tacoma, a critical sales driver, since it would be difficult for the company to move production to the U.S. without further expanding its San Antonio plant. Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota division in the U.S., said on a Wednesday conference call that the company is analyzing San Antonio for future investments dependent upon market conditions, while confirming that the Baja investment has begun.

Trump’s tweet came after Toyota President Akio Toyoda said earlier in the day that the company would wait until after Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 to decide whether to scale back on Mexican production.

“We will consider our option as we see what policies the incoming president adopts,” Toyoda said in Tokyo, according to Reuters.

Toyota is one of the smaller exporters of Mexican-made vehicles to the U.S. Through November, Toyota had exported about 124,439 vehicles out of Mexico, mostly to the U.S. and Canada. That figure is up 37 percent from the year-earlier period, but places Toyota well behind other automakers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (404,160 units), GM (495,790), Nissan Motor Co. (464,877) and Ford (351,691).

Trump has frequently targeted automakers for selling Mexican-made cars in the U.S., most recently going after GM on Twitter for “sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free.”

Ford, a frequent target of Trump during his presidential campaign, earlier this week said it would cancel a $1.6 billion plant planned in Mexico and would instead invest in a suburban Detroit factory.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said a weak U.S. market for cars made it unnecessary for the company to build a new plant in Mexico, though he said in an interview on CNBC that the decision was a “vote of confidence” in Trump’s “pro-growth” economic and regulatory policies.

Trump has frequently called on the U.S. to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and has pledged to pursue more protectionist trade policies, moves that could dramatically alter where automakers decide to invest in plants and export vehicles.

“Toyota has been part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. for nearly 60 years,” the company said in a statement. “Production volume or employment in the U.S. will not decrease as a result of our new plant … With more than $21.9 billion direct investment in the U.S., 10 manufacturing facilities, 1,500 dealerships and 136,000 employees, Toyota looks forward to collaborating with the Trump administration to serve in the best interests of consumers and the automotive industry.”

A request for comment by the Trump transition team was not immediately returned.

Laurence Iliff contributed to this report.

Audi plans to debut autonomous car in 2020

LAS VEGAS — Audi AG wants put autonomous cars on the road in less than five years.

The automaker said in a joint event Wednesday with artificial intelligence company Nvidia at CES, the technology trade show formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, that it plans to introduce a Level 4 autonomous vehicle in 2020. Such a vehicle would require no human intervention in limited situations.

Audi also plans to introduce a Level 3 capable vehicle, which is highly automated but requires human intervention, this year.

The autonomous systems will integrate Nvidia’s artificial intelligence technology, and the Level 4 Audi Q7 concept was demonstrated for journalists and analysts at the show on Thursday.

At Thursday’s press event, Audi of America President Scott Keogh said customer demand for autonomous driving systems has increased as the automaker has gradually introduced driver assist technology into its vehicles. He said Level 3 technology will be vital to achieving consumer acceptance of fully self-driving cars. The company also said it gathers at least 5 million miles of autonomous driving data collected from vehicle sensors before introducing new driver assist technology into production vehicles.

“Customers do want vehicles that are safer,” Keogh said, adding that about 60 percent of Audi customers have opted for driver assist technologies in current vehicles, which can cost an additional $3,000 to $5,000.

Keogh said the company recognizes the need to properly educate its customers on the limits of its technology and avoid overhype.

“You don’t just go to the moon by saying you want to go to the moon,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of steps you have to take to get there.”

Audi’s Level 3 technology is called “Traffic Jam Pilot” and can be employed in traffic situations under 35 mph, taking full control of the vehicle. Alejandro Vukotich, vice president of development of automated driving at Audi said the low speed limit is to ensure the car can be easily transitioned to a safe state from self-driving mode.

Properly defining autonomous capabilities has been an ongoing issue for automakers as self-driving technology develops

Gill Pratt, head of the Toyota Research Institute, said at the automaker’s CES press conference on Wednesday that distinguishing between Level 2 and Level 3 as well as Level 4 and Level 5 will be a primary challenge in communicating autonomous vehicles to the public.

“There continues to be a lot of confusion, and I think it’s important there be a common vocabulary to understand it,” Pratt said.