GM’s Maven Is Betting on Autonomous and Electric Vehicles, But Obstacles Lie Ahead

In the future, people will travel in autonomous and electric vehicles that will eliminate crashes, emissions, and congestion, a General Motors executive said.

“We’re not going to get there’re tomorrow, but it’s what drives our business,” said Sigal Cordeiro, vice president of General Motors’mobility and Maven car rental service.

But Cordiero, who made the comments at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. on Tuesday, realizes that GM its rivals will have to overcome challenges to make this vision a reality. Maven, a startup-like organization within GM, has already encountered a few of those hurdles and hopes to use GM’s resources to accomplish its larger goal. 

Issues include a shortage of charging stations, which Cordeiro said is one of the main reasons why consumers don’t buy electric vehicles. There’s also the complicated matters of regulation and improving the technology.

Because of the uncertainties, Cordiero was unable to provide a timeline for the roll out of commercial autonomous vehicles.

“It’s going to take us a while,” she said. “But certainly we’re making great progress to get there.”

So far, Maven has built five charging stations with 34 individual chargers for drivers who work for ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber traveling in electric vehicles between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The stations were built in partnership with engineering and construction firm Bechtel. 

Maven also has a team dedicated to working on local regulations, which can be so suffocating that they prevent companies like Maven from operating within certain city limits.

Earlier this year, Maven pulled out of eight of the 17 cities in which it operated. Cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York City lost their Maven service, while others like Los Angeles, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., maintained it.

On Tuesday, Cordeiro reiterated the message that the company gave when it cut back where it operated.

“With the limited resources we have, the growth potential isn’t there in every market,” she said. “We had to focus on where it made sense … and that’s what we’ve done in the last year.”

Read more: https://fortune.com/2019/12/10/gm-maven-electric-autonomous-vehicles-mpw-next-gen/

3 Lessons for Today’s Economy from Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker’s Long and Storied Career

Paul Volcker’s death closed the career of an unusually influential, important—and controversial—economist.

His role in finally ending the use of the gold standard during the Nixon administration still leaves some disgruntled. Millions still resent the double-digit interest rates and runaway inflation they were meant to stop of the 1980s when he was chairman of the Federal Reserve. Many bankers have pushed for years to weaken the Volcker Rule that put limits on the risky transactions commercial banks could undertake and whose development he oversaw for the Obama administration.

But a review of Volcker’s record—as Nixon administration official, Fed chair, and economic éminence grise—illuminate three important lessons financial policy makers would be wise to heed.

No country is a metaphorical island

In 1973, Volcker was Treasury undersecretary of international monetary affairs for Richard Nixon. The world had been on the gold standard streaks, cautioned by the hyperinflation that followed World War I after countries freely printed money to pay for the conflict. Under the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, the U.S. dollar, tied to the value of gold, became the global currency the central banks of countries set fixed currency exchange rates.

However, the arrangement came with problems. “Having a fixed exchange rate system worked against markets,” because they couldn’t readily adjust to new conditions, says Jeffrey Bergstrand, a finance professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and former Federal Reserve economist.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as Japan, France, and Germany regained their economic strength after World War II, standards of living rose, which should have driven an upward appreciation of their currencies. The higher currency values would then have attracted more investment and allowed additional growth.

Although countries periodically met to modify the exchange rates, there was insufficient regular flexibility. “The dollar came under pressure because it was essentially overvalued,” Bergstrand says. Imports were unnecessarily inexpensive and U.S. exports were too costly to be competitive.

To brace and improve the U.S. economy, it was necessary to consider the global one. Other countries needed the freedom to be fiscally stronger. By pushing for an end to the Bretten Woods agreement, Volcker realized countries couldn’t live in economic isolation and that

Read more: https://fortune.com/2019/12/10/paul-volcker-career-lessons-fed-chair/

Democrats Embrace Controversial Strategy With Trump, Trade, and Impeachment

Just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood with House Democrats as they announced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It is only the third time in American history that the House has taken that step to attempt to remove the president from office.

Less than an hour later, Pelosi announced that Democrats had reached an agreement with the White House on a new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, handing the president a legislative accomplishment on one of his signature issues that he could run on in his 2020 re-election campaign.

The radically different press conferences revealed a calculated and controversial strategy by Pelosi and House Democrats—to work with Trump on one of his central initiatives and simultaneously argue that he is a threat to the country who should be removed from office. 

Pelosi tweeted recently that Trump was a “continuing threat to our democracy,” but she defended working with the White House Tuesday after announcing that Democrats had secured labor, environmental, and pharmaceutical concessions, and won the crucial support of unions.

“We came a long way from what he [Trump] originally proposed,” Pelosi said at a press conference announcing the deal. “Not any one of us is important enough for us to hold up enough because of American workers because of any collateral benefit that might accrue to any one of us.”

Democrats were divided over the trade deal, with progressives remaining skeptical, and several Democrats saying that the deal could benefit the president politically.

“Personally, I am not thrilled with how this has developed. I understand that there are more conservative members of the party that they want to communicate with their constituents that we are ‘doing something’ while impeachment is happening,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who added she was “leaning no” on the bill.

“When you’re explaining, you’re losing,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “We have to then say, he wanted us to pass this, but if we didn’t take him back to the conference table, we wouldn’t be where we are today…it’s not as simple as ‘I brought it to the table.’ I don’t see how it’s a victory for us.” 

Still, many House Democrats emerging from a caucus meeting Tuesday defended working with Trump to get a deal done on trade, while still regarding him as dangerous and worthy

Read more: https://fortune.com/2019/12/10/usmca-press-conference-trade-deal-trump-pelosi/

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