VW Chief Upbeat on Electric-Car Battle With Tesla: Davos Update

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The rich and powerful are in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting, and the gathering is being closely watched to see how the global elite aims to tackle problems they helped create, above all climate change.

The economy is in focus on the final day of the forum, with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz joining a panel discussion on the global outlook.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, meanwhile, has called a climate strike for Friday at 11 a.m. local time near the forum.

To get all the highlights delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Davos Diary newsletter. Here’s the latest (time-stamps are local time in Davos):

VW’s Diess Upbeat on Battle With Tesla (8:10 a.m.)

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said he’s optimistic the German car giant can keep pace with Tesla Inc. in the race to dominate the electric car market and even overtake Elon Musk’s company at some point.

“I think it’s an open race” to define the car of the future, Diess told Bloomberg TV. “I would take Tesla more seriously than Google and there are also from our peers some very competitive companies like Toyota.”

This year will be “very difficult” for automakers, with global demand “basically flat” and tighter emissions regulations coming into force in Europe, Diess said. “We’re basically optimistic, but it will be a very demanding year for the industry,” he added.

Lagarde: ECB Policy Not Necessarily on Autopilot (7:30 a.m.)

Lagarde said that market observers should not assume that the ECB’s monetary policy will be on “autopilot” for the next two years.

“To those who think that it’s autopilot, I think that’s ridiculous,” Lagarde said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua. “There is a forward guidance, which is strong, which is setting a very clear timetable that is fact dependent. But let’s look at the facts. Let’s look at how the economy evolves.”

Lagarde added that if markets are interested in what happens over the next 12 months, “they should not pay too much attention” to the ECB’s strategy review.

“To those who say it’s going to be completely static and stable for 12 months I say watch out, because things change and we might have different signals and we might reconsider,” she said. She conceded that the goal of completing the review by the end of this year is “ambitious.”

Carrie Lam Courts Elite With Dim Sum (5:39 a.m.)

Carrie Lam hosted 200 business and political leaders for dim sum and cocktails at a Swiss ski resort to reassure them that Hong Kong’s future is bright.

The city’s leader said that Hong Kong is still open for business, despite paralyzing protests and an economy in recession. She also said that officials back home are working to contain the coronavirus that’s killed more than two dozen people in China and infected hundreds of others. Hong Kong has identified two cases.

In a room decorated with gold candles and red Chinese lanterns for Lunar New Year, Lam said her government “will safeguard Hong Kong’s fundamentals, including the rule of law.” She was also “fully confident of the city’s future,” according to a readout from her office.

Singapore Leader Says Rebound Depends on Calm (1:57 a.m.)

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state’s economy could improve in 2020 only if any number of global risks don’t materialize, particularly emanating from the U.S.

Lee said that he’s “relieved” that Singapore’s economy escaped recession in 2019. The government’s growth forecast for this year — anywhere from 0.5%-2.5% — indicates “we really don’t know” how things will pan out, he said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.

“That’s the range of what our economy is capable of, but whether we realize that capability, that potential, depends on international conditions,” Lee said. “If there’s a blowout between China and America, or if there’s something happening in the Middle East, either with Iran or with Syria, then all bets are off.”

Soros: Facebook Conspiring to Re-Elect Trump (00:18 a.m.)

Billionaire George Soros said that nothing is keeping Facebook Inc. from spreading disinformation and the company may be in cahoots with U.S. President Donald Trump to get him re-elected.

“I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros, 89, said Thursday. “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”

Soros didn’t offer any evidence for his claim. “This is just plain wrong,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in response.

Friday Highlights

10:30 a.m. | Central banking panel with ECB Governing Council members Francois Villeroy De Galhau and Klaas Knot10:30 a.m. | QuickTake panel: How can the world break free from single-use plastics? Join us for a discussion and DM us questions: @QuickTake11:30 a.m. | Global Economic Outlook panel with ECB President Lagarde, BOJ Governor Kuroda, IMF’s Georgieva, U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, German Finance Minister Scholz11:30 a.m. | Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gives special addressBe on the lookout for Bloomberg Television’s interviews withVolkswagen CEO DiessBank of France Governor Villeroy de GalhauAustrian Chancellor Kurz

Thursday Catchup

‘Matter of survival’ | Germany’s Angela Merkel called on world leaders to work together to fight global warming and take the views of concerned young people seriously, saying time is running out to protect the planet. Meanwhile, the head of Merkel’s party said Germany needs to speed up the process of spending government funds.Back to school | U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin questioned whether Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is qualified to talk about economic issues linked to climate change and told 17-year-old to go and study the subject in college.Trade flare-up | The U.S. and Europe looked set for a renewed clash over everything from car tariffs to digital taxes in a sign that a new American focus may be emerging following Trump’s trade truce with China.Waste-free economy | When British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was promoting the idea of the circular economy on the sidelines of Davos in 2012, the big attraction was curiosity about what she was up to after her sailing career. Eight years on, MacArthur’s vision is taking hold at the WEF, and firms such as Adidas, Unilever and BlackRock are embracing it.Davos laggards | The global 1% once again have ascended the Swiss Alps to breathe the rarefied air in Davos, but in the stock market they’re anything but elite.Speed reads | Turkey says central bank as independent as the Fed | Standard Chartered says few have left Hong Kong | Formula One says overhaul deal talks in final stages | Facebook says Bezos hack highlights vulnerabilities

–With assistance from Shelly Banjo, Dandan Li, Michelle Jamrisko, Katia Porzecanski, Sarah Frier and Francine Lacqua.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Reiter in Berlin at creiter2@bloomberg.net;Iain Rogers in Berlin at irogers11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net;Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net

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