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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

GM is laying off 14,300 employees. It's shuttering five factories in the U.S. and Canada, and says that two more closings will be announced internationally. By next year, it will no longer make the Buick LaCrosse, the Chevrolet Impala, or the Cadillac CT6 sedan. It's even killing the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid.

The big picture: Welcome to the modern car industry, which is full of bad news. All the top-selling sedans in America — the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima, and Nissan Sentra — are Japanese.

  • Why it matters: American carmakers can't compete, and are giving up that segment of the market. Instead they're concentrating on trucks, SUVs, and crossovers, which have higher profit margins and growing demand.

What's next? Almost certainly, even more job losses.

  • Car factories are at their most efficient when they run at full capacity. Right now America is capable of producing many more vehicles than there's demand for — roughly 3.2 million vehicles per year, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. (GM accounts for about 1 million of that.)
  • The logic of efficiency means that yet more factories are likely to close.

President Trump's trade war and steel tariffs are costing the industry billions, including roughly $700 million in higher steel prices at GM alone. Very few big automakers have avoided problems:

  • Ford has already announced that it is effectively getting out of the car business. By 2020, it will no longer sell the Fiesta, Taurus, Fusion or Focus in North America. Only the Mustang will remain, along with a crossover called the Focus Active.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk told "Axios on HBO" that the entire company was "within single-digit weeks" of death — in need of layoffs or new financing — earlier this year.
  • Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, after trying to push through a merger with France's Renault that neither company really wanted, is now sitting in a Japanese jail. A Nissan whistleblower told Japanese authorities that Ghosn was being paid tens of millions of dollars in undeclared income. (Wall Street Journal editorial: "The Ghosn Inquisition")
  • Fiat Chrysler is struggling after the death of its charismatic leader, Sergio Marchionne, who never achieved his longstanding dream of merging with GM.
  • Volkswagen, which has also seen a senior executive arrested, has set aside $30 billion to cover costs associated with its Dieselgate scandal.

What to watch: The future of car-making might be grim, but stock market investors are excited about self-driving cars and mobility as a service.

  • That market logic is putting pressure on carmakers to pour billions into R&D. It's also driving strategic investments in everything from AI to electric scooters.
  • The result: A major secular employment shift away from unionized factory workers and Detroit middle-management lifers. Expect the United Auto Workers, still GM's largest shareholder with a $3.6 billion stake in the company, to remain extremely unhappy for the foreseeable future.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Exclusive: White House meeting with members of Problem Solvers Caucus

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus discuss the COVID-19 relief bill in December. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top White House officials will meet Wednesday with a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers as the administration tries to enlist moderates to support the president's infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The meeting is something of an olive branch after President Biden's team courted groups of progressives to back the $2.2 trillion package.

54 mins ago - Health

The new vaccine threat is fear itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.

Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase heads to Wall Street

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Coinbase, the country's largest cryptocurrency exchange, is expected to go public today at what could be a valuation north of $100 billion.

Why it matters: This gives crypto a Wall Street seal of legitimacy, after an early existence marred by ties to illicit goods.

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