The Store Where Everything Is Made in America

From T-shirts, socks and toys to knives and lanterns, a store in upstate New York takes pride in only selling goods that are made in America. Olga Loginova from VOA’s Russian service talked to the store owner about his business, which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis.


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Consumers Close Wallets, Trim US 1st Quarter Growth

The U.S. economy likely slowed in the first quarter as growth in consumer spending braked sharply, but the setback is expected to be temporary against the backdrop of a tightening labor market and large fiscal stimulus.

Gross domestic product probably increased at a 2.0 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters survey of economists, also held back by a moderation in business spending on equipment as well as a widening of the trade deficit and decline in investment in homebuilding.

Those factors likely offset an increase in inventories. The economy grew at a 2.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter. The government will publish its snapshot of first-quarter GDP Friday at 8:30 a.m. 

Don’t lose sleep

The anticipated tepid first-quarter growth will, however, probably not be a true reflection of the economy, despite the expected weakness in consumer spending. First-quarter GDP tends to be soft because of a seasonal quirk. The labor market is near full employment and both business and consumer confidence are strong.

“I would not lose sleep over first-quarter GDP, there is the residual seasonality issue,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Overall the economy is doing very well and will continue to do well this year and into 2019.”

Economists expect growth will accelerate in the second quarter as households start to feel the impact of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion income tax package on their paychecks. Lower corporate and individual tax rates as well as increased government spending will likely lift annual economic growth to the administration’s 3 percent target, despite the weak start to the year.

Federal Reserve officials are likely to shrug off weak first-quarter growth. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates last month in a nod to the strong labor market and economy, and forecast at least two rate hikes this year.

Minutes of the March 20-21 meeting published earlier this month showed policymakers “expected that the first-quarter softness would be transitory,” citing “residual seasonality in the data, and more generally to strong economic fundamentals.”

Consumer spending lackluster

Economists estimate that growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, braked to below a 1.5 percent rate in the first quarter. That would be the slowest pace in nearly five years and follows the fourth quarter’s robust 4.0 percent growth rate.

Consumer spending in the last quarter was likely held back by delayed tax refunds and impact of tax cuts. Rebuilding and clean-up efforts following hurricanes late last year probably pulled forward spending into the fourth quarter.

“Our new consumer survey found that 37 percent of consumers thought they didn’t get any extra income from the tax cut or did not know what to do with it,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “It is possible this means that there is a lag in the consumer response to tax cuts.”

Business spending

Business spending on equipment is forecast to have slowed after double-digit growth in the second half of 2017. The expected cooling in equipment investment partly reflects a fading boost from a recovery in commodity prices. Economists expect a marginal impact on business spending on equipment from rising interest rates and more expensive raw materials.

“While we do not expect rising rates to crush equipment spending, a slowdown nevertheless appears in store,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Higher interest rates will hurt at the margin.”

Investment in homebuilding is forecast to have declined in the first quarter after rebounding in the October-December period. Government spending probably contracted after two straight quarterly increases. Spending is, however, expected to rebound in the second quarter after the U.S. Congress recently approved more government spending.

Trade was likely a drag on GDP growth for a second straight quarter after royalties and broadcast license fees related to the Winter Olympics boosted imports.

With consumer spending slowing, inventories probably accumulated in the first quarter. Inventory investment is expected to have contributed to GDP growth after subtracting 0.53 percentage point in the fourth quarter.


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Amazon Delivers Profits, a $20 Prime Hike, NFL Games

Amazon.com Inc. more than doubled its profit Thursday and predicted strong spring results as the world’s biggest online retailer raised the price for U.S. Prime subscribers, added U.S. football games and touted its cloud services for business.

The results showed the broad strength of the company, which has been expanding far beyond shipping packages, the business that has drawn the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The forecast beat expectations on Wall Street, sending shares up 7 percent to a new record in afterhours trade and adding $8 billion to the net worth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and largest shareholder.

Seattle-based Amazon is winning business from older, big box rivals by delivering virtually any product to customers at a low cost, and at times faster than it takes to buy goods from a physical store. It is expanding across industries, too, striking a $130 million deal to stream Thursday night games for the U.S. National Football League online and working to ship groceries to doorsteps from Whole Foods stores nationwide.

Sales jumped 43 percent to $51.0 billion in the quarter, topping estimates of $49.8 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Prime now $119

Prime, Amazon’s loyalty club that includes fast shipping, video streaming and other benefits, has been key to Amazon’s strategy. Its more than 100 million members globally spend above average on Amazon.

The company announced Thursday it will increase the yearly price of Prime to $119 from $99 for U.S. members this spring.

The fee hike is expected to add a windfall to Amazon’s subscription revenue, already up 60 percent in the first quarter at $3.1 billion.

“We do feel it’s still the best deal in retail,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer, said on a call with analysts. He said the number of items Prime members can get within two days had grown fivefold since the last price increase four years ago.

Advertising and the cloud

Despite the surge in shopping, Olsavsky gave credit for Amazon’s $1.6 billion profit last quarter to two younger businesses: advertising and Amazon Web Services.

Revenue from third-party sellers paying to promote their products on Amazon.com was an unusually large bright spot during the quarter, with sales in the category, which includes some other items, growing 139 percent to $2.03 billion. This included $560 million from an accounting change.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), which handles data and computing for large enterprises in the cloud, won new business and saw its profit margin expand. It posted a 49 percent rise in sales from a year earlier to $5.44 billion, beating estimates.

Amazon remains the biggest in the space by revenue, and its stock trades at a significant premium to cloud-computing rival Microsoft Corp.

Amazon’s shares have also outperformed the S&P 500, rising 30 percent this year as of Thursday’s market close, compared with the S&P’s less than 1 percent decline.

More workers, spending

Notorious for running on a low profit margin, Amazon has still reaped rewards for shareholders as it has bet on new services like voice-controlled computing and has expanded across continents and industries.

Global headcount was up 60 percent from a year earlier at 563,100 full-time and part-time employees, thanks to a hiring spree and an influx of workers from Whole Foods Market.

The company plans to increase its video content spending this year, Amazon’s Olsavsky said, with a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” in the works. The third quarter will also see extra spending to prepare for the busy holiday season.

Amazon is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co and Berkshire Hathaway Inc to determine how to cut health costs for hundreds of thousands of their employees.

And it is expanding its retail footprint outside the United States, particularly in India. Amazon’s international operating loss grew 29 percent to $622 million in the first quarter.


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Mexico Economy Minister Says NAFTA Revamp Talks ‘Not Easy’

Much remains to be done before a new North American Free Trade Agreement is reached, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Thursday, tempering hopes for a quick deal as ministers met in Washington for a third successive day.

Negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada have been working constantly for weeks to clinch a deal, but major differences remain on contentious topics such as autos content.

Complicating matters, the Trump administration has threatened to impose sanctions on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum on May 1 if not enough progress has been made on NAFTA.

President Donald Trump, who came into office in January 2017 decrying NAFTA and other international trade deals as unfair to the United States, has repeatedly threatened to walk away from the agreement with Canada and Mexico, which took effect in 1994.

“It is going, it’s going, but not easy — too many things, too many issues to tackle,” Guajardo told reporters after a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Now under way for eight months, the talks to revamp the accord underpinning $1.2 trillion in trade entered a more intensive phase after the last formal round of negotiations ended in March with ministers vowing to push for a deal.

Lighthizer is due to visit China next week, and when asked if a deal was possible before the USTR left, Guajardo said: “It will depend on our abilities and creativity. We are trying to do our best, but there are still a lot of things pending.”

Although Washington is keen for an agreement soon to avoid clashing with a July 1 Mexican presidential election, the three NAFTA members remain locked in talks to agree on new rules governing minimum content requirements for the auto industry.

Still, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected the notion that discussion of the so-called rules of origin for the automotive sector was holding up the process.

“I would very much disagree with the characterization of the autos conversation as being log-jammed,” she said as she entered the USTR offices. “This is a week when very good, significant progress is being made on rules of origin for the car sector.”

Freeland said she would skip a planned visit to a NATO summit in Brussels on Friday, and vowed to stay in Washington for “as long as it takes.” Guajardo, too, said he was ready to remain in Washington this week for more talks.

Disagreements

The three sides are also trying to settle disagreements over U.S. demands to change how trade disputes are handled, to restrict access to agricultural markets and to include a clause that would allow a country to quit NAFTA after five years.

Bosco de la Vega, head of Mexico’s National Agricultural Council, the main farm lobby, said he believed the three would be able to reach an agreement on agricultural access.

But the auto sector rules were still contentious, he added.

“It’s the most important issue there,” he said, adding that he had earmarked May 10 as the deadline for a quick deal.

Separately, Canada on Thursday unveiled details of how it plans to prevent the smuggling of cheap steel and aluminum into the North American market in a bid to avoid the U.S. tariffs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the plan last month, said Ottawa would hire 40 new trade officers to probe complaints, including those related to steel and aluminum.


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EU Piles Pressure on Social Media Over Fake News

Tech giants such as Facebook and Google must step up efforts to tackle the spread of fake news online in the next few months or potentially face further EU regulation, as concerns mount over election interference.

The European Commission said on Thursday it would draw up a Code of Practice on Disinformation for the 28-nation EU by July with measures to prevent the spread of fake news such as increasing scrutiny of advertisement placements.

EU policymakers are particularly worried that the spread of fake news could interfere with European elections next year, after Facebook disclosed that Russia tried to influence U.S. voters through the social network in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election. Moscow denies such claims.

“These [online] platforms have so far failed to act proportionately, falling short of the challenge posed by disinformation and the manipulative use of platforms’ infrastructure,” the Commission wrote in its strategy for tackling fake news published on Thursday.

“The Commission calls upon platforms to decisively step up their efforts to tackle online disinformation.”

Advertisers and online platforms should produce “measurable effects” on the code of practice by October, failing which the Commission could propose further actions, including regulation “targeted at a few platforms.”

Companies will have to work harder to close fake accounts, take steps to reduce revenues for purveyors of disinformation and limit targeting options for political adverts.

The Commission, the EU’s executive, will also support the creation of an independent European network of fact-checkers and launch an online platform on disinformation.

Tech industry association CCIA said the October deadline for progress appeared rushed.

“The tech industry takes the spread of disinformation online very seriously…when drafting the Code of Practice, it is important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address this issue given the diversity of affected services,” said Maud Sacquet, CCIA Europe Senior Policy Manager.

Weaponizing fake news

The revelations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica – which worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign – improperly accessed the data of up to 87 million Facebook users has further rocked public trust in social media.

“There are serious doubts about whether platforms are sufficiently protecting their users against unauthorized use of their personal data by third parties, as exemplified by the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations,” the Commission wrote.

Facebook has stepped up fact-checking in its fight against fake news and is trying to make it uneconomical for people to post such content by lowering its ranking and making it less visible. The world’s largest social network is also working on giving its users more context and background about the content they read on the platform.

“The weaponization of online fake news and disinformation poses a serious security threat to our societies,” said Julian King, EU Commissioner for security. “The subversion of trusted channels to peddle pernicious and divisive content requires a clear-eyed response based on increased transparency, traceability and accountability.”

Campaign group European Digital Rights warned that the Commission ought not to rush into taking binding measures over fake news which could have an effect on the freedom of speech.

King rejected any suggestion that the proposal would lead to censorship or a crackdown on satire or partisan news.

“It’s a million miles away from censorship,” King told a news conference. “It’s not targeting partisan journalism, freedom of speech, freedom to disagree, freedom to be, in some cases, a bit disagreeable.”

Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip said there had been some debate internally over whether to explicitly mention Russia in the fake news strategy.

“Some people say that we don’t want to name just one name. And other people say that ‘add some other countries also and then we will put them all on our list’, but unfortunately nobody is able to name those others,” the former Estonian prime minister said.


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Facebook’s Rise in Profits, Users Shows Resilience 

Facebook Inc. shares rose Wednesday after the social network reported a surprisingly strong 63 percent rise in profit and an increase in users, with no sign that business was hurt by a scandal over the mishandling of personal data.

After easily beating Wall Street expectations, shares traded up 7.1 percent after the bell at $171, paring a month-long decline that began with Facebook’s disclosure in March that consultancy Cambridge Analytica had harvested data belonging to millions of users.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, affecting up to 87 million users and prompting several apologies from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, generated calls for regulation and for users to leave the social network, but there was no indication advertisers immediately changed their spending.

“Everybody keeps talking about how bad things are for Facebook, but this earnings report to me is very positive, and reiterates that Facebook is fine, and they’ll get through this,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company. His firm holds about 73,000 shares in Facebook.

Facebook’s quarterly profit beat analysts’ estimates, as a 49 percent jump in quarterly revenue outpaced a 39 percent rise in expenses from a year earlier. The mobile ad business grew on a push to add more video content.

Facebook said monthly active users in the first quarter rose to 2.2 billion, up 13 percent from a year earlier and matching expectations, according to Thomson Reuters.

The company reversed last quarter’s decline in the number of daily active users in the United States and Canada, saying it had 185 million users there, up from 184 million in the fourth quarter.

Resilient business model

The results are a bright spot for the world’s largest social network amid months of negative headlines about the company’s handling of personal information, its role in elections and its fueling of violence in developing countries.

Facebook, which generates revenue primarily by selling advertising personalized to its users, has demonstrated for several quarters how resilient its business model can be as long as users keep coming back to scroll through its News Feed and watch its videos.

It is spending to ensure users are not scared away by scandals. Chief Financial Officer David Wehner told analysts on a call that expenses this year would grow between 50 percent and 60 percent, up from a prior range of 45 percent to 60 percent.

Spending on security

Much of Facebook’s ramp-up in spending is for safety and security, Wehner said. The category includes efforts to root out fake accounts, scrub hate speech and take down violent videos.

Facebook said it ended the first quarter with 27,742 employees, up 48 percent from a year earlier.

“So long as profits continue to grow at a rapid rate, investors will accept that higher spending to ensure privacy is warranted,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

It has been nearly two years since Facebook shares rose 7 percent or more during a trading day. They rose 7.2 percent on April 28, 2016, the day after another first-quarter earnings report.

Net income attributable to Facebook shareholders rose in the first quarter to $4.99 billion, or $1.69 per share, from $3.06 billion, or $1.04 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.35 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Total revenue was $11.97 billion, above the analyst estimate of $11.41 billion.

Some details secret

The company declined to provide some details sought by analysts. It has not shared the revenue generated by Instagram, the photo-sharing app it owns, and it declined to provide details about time spent on Facebook. Facebook also owns the popular smartphone apps Messenger and WhatsApp.

Tighter regulation could make Facebook’s ads less lucrative by reducing the kinds of data it can use to personalize and target ads to users, although Facebook’s size means it could also be well positioned to cope with regulations.

Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google together dominate the internet ad business worldwide. Facebook is expected to take 18 percent of global digital ad revenue this year, compared with Google’s 31 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.

The company said it was increasing the amount of money authorized to repurchase shares by an additional $9 billion. It had initially authorized repurchases up to $6 billion.


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YouTube Overhauls Kids’ App

YouTube is overhauling its kid-focused video app to give parents the option of letting humans, not computer algorithms, select what shows their children can watch.

The updates that begin rolling out April 26, 2018, are a response to complaints that the YouTube Kids app has repeatedly failed to filter out disturbing content.

Google-owned YouTube launched the toddler-oriented app in 2015. It has described it as a “safer” experience than the regular YouTube video-sharing service for finding “Peppa Pig” episodes or watching user-generated videos of people unboxing toys, teaching guitar lessons or experimenting with science.

Failure of screening system

In order to meet U.S. child privacy rules, Google says it bans kids under 13 from using its core video service. But its official terms of agreement are largely ignored by tens of millions of children and their families who don’t bother downloading the under-13 app.

Both the grown-up video service and the YouTube Kids app have been criticized by child advocates for their commercialism and for the failures of a screening system that relies on artificial intelligence. The app is engineered to automatically exclude content that’s not appropriate for kids, and recommend videos based on what children have watched before. That hasn’t always worked to parents’ liking — especially when videos with profanity, violence or sexual themes slip through the filters. 

Updates give parents option

The updates allow parents to switch off the automated system and choose a contained selection of children’s programming such as Sesame Street and PBS Kids. But the automated system remains the default.  

“For parents who like the current version of YouTube Kids and want a wider selection of content, it’s still available,” said James Beser, the app’s product director, in a blog post Wednesday. “While no system is perfect, we continue to fine-tune, rigorously test and improve our filters for this more-open version of our app.”

Beser also encouraged parents to block videos and flag them for review if they don’t think they should be on the app. But the practice of addressing problem videos after children have already been exposed to them has bothered child advocates who want the more controlled option to be the default. 

Cleaner, safer kids’ app

“Anything that gives parents the ability to select programming that has been vetted in some fashion by people is an improvement, but I also think not every parent is going to do this,” said Josh Golin, director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Giving parents more control doesn’t absolve YouTube of the responsibility of keeping the bad content out of YouTube Kids.”

He said Google should aim to build an even cleaner and safer kids’ app, then pull all the kid-oriented content off the regular YouTube — where most kids are going — and onto that app. 

Golin’s group recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether YouTube’s data collection and advertising practices violate federal child privacy rules. He said advocates plan to meet with FTC officials next week.


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Will Robot Baristas Replace Traditional Cafes?

There has been a long tradition of making and drinking coffee across cultures and continents. Now, a tech company in Austin is adding to this tradition by creating robot baristas to make the coffee-drinking experience more convenient. For a similar price of a cup of Starbucks designer coffee, a robot can now make it, too. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee finds out whether robots will replace traditional baristas.


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US Pecan Growers Seek to Break Out of the Pie Shell

The humble pecan is being rebranded as more than just pie.

 

Pecan growers and suppliers are hoping to sell U.S. consumers on the virtues of North America’s only native nut as a hedge against a potential trade war with China, the pecan’s largest export market.

 

The pecan industry is also trying to crack the fast-growing snack-food industry.

 

The retail value for packaged nuts, seeds and trail mix in the U.S. alone was $5.7 billion in 2012, and is forecast to rise to $7.5 billion by 2022, according to market researcher Euromonitor.

 

The Fort Worth, Texas-based American Pecan Council, formed in the wake of a new federal marketing order that allows the industry to band together and assess fees for research and promotion, is a half-century in the making, said Jim Anthony, 80, the owner of a 14,000-acre pecan farm near Granbury, Texas.

 

Anthony said that regional rivalries and turf wars across the 15-state pecan belt — stretching from the Carolinas to California — made such a union impossible until recently, when demand for pecans exploded in Asian markets.

Until 2007, most U.S. pecans were consumed domestically, according to Daniel Zedan, president of Nature’s Finest Foods, a marketing group. By 2009, China was buying about a third of the U.S. crop.

 

The pecan is the only tree nut indigenous to North America, growers say. Sixteenth-century Spanish explore Cabeza de Vaca wrote about tasting the nut during his encounters with Native American tribes in South Texas. The name is French explorers’ phonetic spelling of the native word “pakan,” meaning hard-shelled nut.

 

Facing growing competition from pecan producers in South Africa, Mexico and Australia, U.S. producers are also riding the wave of the Trump administration’s policies to promote American-made goods.

 

Most American kids grow up with peanut butter but peanuts probably originated in South America. Almonds are native to Asia and pistachios to the Middle East. The pecan council is funding academic research to show that their nuts are just as nutritious.

 

The council on Wednesday will debut a new logo: “American Pecans: The Original Supernut.”

Rodney Myers, who manages operations at Anthony’s pecan farm, credits the pecan’s growing cachet in China and elsewhere in Asia with its association to rustic Americana — “the oilfield, cowboys, the Wild West — they associate all these things with the North American nut,” he said.

 

China earlier this month released a list of American products that could face tariffs in retaliation for proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Fresh and dried nuts — including the pecan — could be slapped with a 15-percent tariff, according to the list. To counter that risk, the pecan council is using some of the $8 million in production-based assessments it’s collected since the marketing order was passed to promote the versatility of the tree nut beyond pecan pie at Thanksgiving.

 

While Chinese demand pushed up prices it also drove away American consumers. By January 2013, prices had dropped 50 percent from their peak in 2011, according to Zedan.

U.S. growers and processers were finally able in 2016 to pass a marketing order to better control pecan production and prices.

 

Authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, federal marketing orders help producers and handlers standardize packaging, impose quality control and fund research, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees 28 other fruit, vegetable and specialty marketing orders, in addition to the pecan order.

 

Critics charge that the orders interfere with the price signals of a free, unfettered private market.

 

“What you’ve created instead is a government-sanctioned cartel,” said Daren Bakst, an agricultural policy researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

 

Before the almond industry passed its own federal marketing order in 1950, fewer almonds than pecans were sold, according to pecan council chair Mike Adams, who cultivates 600 acres of pecan trees near Caldwell, Texas. Now, while almonds appear in everything from cereal to milk substitutes, Adams calls the pecan “the forgotten nut.”

 

“We’re so excited to have an identity, to break out of the pie shell,” said Molly Willis, a member of the council who owns an 80-acre pecan farm in Albany, Georgia, a supplement to her husband’s family’s peanut-processing business.


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Beijing Auto Show Highlights E-cars Designed for China

Volkswagen and Nissan have unveiled electric cars designed for China at a Beijing auto show that highlights the growing importance of Chinese buyers for a technology seen as a key part of the global industry’s future. 

General Motors displayed five all-electric models Wednesday including a concept Buick SUV it says can go 600 kilometers (375 miles) on one charge. Ford and other brands showed off some of the dozens of electric SUVs, sedans and other models they say are planned for China. 

Auto China 2018, the industry’s biggest sales event this year, is overshadowed by mounting trade tensions between Beijing and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to hike tariffs on Chinese goods including automobiles in a dispute over technology policy. 

The impact on automakers should be small, according to industry analysts, because exports amount to only a few thousand vehicles a year. Those include a GM SUV, the Envision, and Volvo Cars sedans made in China for export to the United States. 

China accounted for half of last year’s global electric car sales, boosted by subsidies and other prodding from communist leaders who want to make their country a center for the emerging technology. 

“The Chinese market is key for the international auto industry and it is key to our success,” VW CEO Herbert Diess said on Tuesday. 

Volkswagen unveiled the E20X, an SUV that is the first model for SOL, an electric brand launched by the German automaker with a Chinese partner. The E20X, promising a 300-kilometer (185-mile) range on one charge, is aimed at the Chinese market’s bargain-priced tiers, where demand is strongest. 

GM, Ford, Daimler AG’s Mercedes unit and other automakers also have announced ventures with local partners to develop models for China that deliver more range at lower prices. 

On Wednesday, Nissan Motor Co. presented its Sylphy Zero Emission, which it said can go 338 kilometers (210 miles) on a charge. The Sylphy is based on Nissan’s Leaf, a version of which is available in China but has sold poorly due to its relatively high price. 

Automakers say they expect electrics to account for 35 to over 50 percent of their China sales by 2025.

First-quarter sales of electrics and gasoline-electric hybrids rose 154 percent over a year earlier to 143,000 units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That compares with sales of just under 200,000 for all of last year in the United States, the No. 2 market. 

That trend has been propelled by the ruling Communist Party’s support for the technology. The party is shifting the financial burden to automakers with sales quotas that take effect next year and require them to earn credits by selling electrics or buy them from competitors. 

That increases pressure to transform electrics into a mainstream product that competes on price and features. 

Automakers also displayed dozens of gasoline-powered models from compact sedans to luxurious SUVs. Their popularity is paying for development of electrics, which aren’t expected to become profitable for most producers until sometime in the next decade. 

China’s total sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans reached 24.7 million units last year, compared with 17.2 million for the United States. 

SUVs are the industry’s cash cow. First-quarter sales rose 11.3 percent over a year earlier to 2.6 million, or almost 45 percent of total auto sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. 

On Wednesday, Ford displayed its Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid, its first electric model for China, which went on sale in March. Plans call for Ford and its luxury unit, Lincoln, to release 15 new electrified vehicles by 2025. 

GM plans to launch 10 electrics or hybrids in China from through 2020. 

VW is due to launch 15 electrics and hybrids in the next two to three years as part of a 10 billion euro ($12 billion) development plan announced in November. 

Nissan says it will roll out 20 electrified models in China over the next five years. 

New but fast-growing Chinese auto trail global rivals in traditional gasoline technology but industry analysts say the top Chinese brands are catching up in electrics, a market with no entrenched leaders. 

BYD Auto, the biggest global electric brand by number sold, debuted two hybrid SUVs and an electric concept car. 

The company, which manufactures electric buses at a California factory and exports battery-powered taxis to Europe, also displayed nine other hybrid and plug-in electric models. 

Chery Automobile Co. showed a lineup that included two electric sedans, an SUV and a hatchback, all promising 250 to 400 kilometers (150 to 250 miles) on a charge. They include futuristic features such as internet-linked navigation and smartphone-style dashboard displays. 

“Our focus is not just an EV that runs. It is excellent performance,” Chery CEO Chen Anning said in an interview ahead of the show. 

Electrics are likely to play a leading role as Chery develops plans announced last year to expand to Western Europe, said Chen. He said the company has yet to decide on a timeline. 

Chery was China’s biggest auto exporter last year, selling 108,000 gasoline-powered vehicles abroad, though mostly in developing markets such as Russia and Egypt. 

“We do have a clear intention to bring an EV product as one of our initial offerings” in Europe, Chen said. 


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