Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The mood in Detroit is gloomy on the eve of next week's North American International Auto Show, and — for once — it has (almost) nothing to do with Michigan weather.

The big picture: Automakers are bracing for a cyclical downturn, exacerbated by the Trump administration's trade policies, rising interest rates and consumer rejection of 4-door sedans. While tightening their belts, they're still trying to fund massive investments in electric and self-driving cars they say are needed to secure their long-term survival.

Why it matters: The auto industry is undergoing an awkward transition, caught between the decline of trusted business models and the lure of an uncertain future in which cars run on electrons (not gasoline), are shared (not owned) — and where driving is optional.

  • The pressure has already resulted in GM plant closings and layoffs in North America and Ford cutbacks in Europe, with more bad news likely as the industry grapples with excess factory capacity worldwide.
  • Some companies are pooling their efforts on AVs and electric vehicles, like GM and Honda. Ford and Volkswagen are expected to announce such an alliance next week.
  • But that future isn't getting any closer. Bold predictions by Tesla and others that cars would be able to drive themselves by now have evaporated in the face of technology challenges and market realities.
  • The timeframe for commercializing driverless cars is now said to be 2020–2021, but even that is unclear.
  • "It seems like we’re kind of stuck where we are," says Eric Paul Dennis, who's been tracking AV promises made — and broken — since 2013 as a senior transportation systems analyst at the Center for Automotive Research.

Investors don't like uncertainty, which helps explain why GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler stocks are down substantially. And for the time being, Wall Street is likely to focus on troubles confronting their core business (Auto 1.0), not the sexy stuff (Auto 2.0).

"Autonomous vehicles will take time and investors may need to rein in their enthusiasm in 2019/2020."
— Adam Jonas, automotive analyst, Morgan Stanley

What’s happening: The annual Detroit auto show is looking to be the quietest since the depths of the 2009 recession, with fewer exhibitors and a shorter media preview.

  • European luxury carmakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz aren't even showing up, following Jaguar-Land Rover and Porsche, which pulled out years ago.
  • Audi and Mercedes had splashy car reveals last week in Las Vegas at CES, the tech show that has been siphoning attention away from Detroit for years.
  • That competition — and the lousy weather in January — prompted show organizers to move the event to June starting in 2020. That lame duck status may be contributing to this year's blah-ness.

Yes, but: There will still be some notable vehicle debuts in Detroit next week, including new sports cars like the Toyota Supra and Mustang GT500, and crossover SUVs including the new Cadillac XT6, Kia Telluride and Ford Explorer.

  • Future mobility tech is still relegated to the basement of Detroit's Cobo Center, where the Automobili-D conference and exhibition will be held for the third year.
  • 65 startups from 10 countries — 20% more than last year — will participate, showing tech on everything from AVs to smart cities.

Go deeper

Asymptotic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

Federal judge says Florida ban on "sanctuary cities" racially motivated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing "sanctuary city" policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.

Biden steps into the breach

Sen. Joe Manchin heads to a meeting with President Biden today. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Biden ramped up the pressure on his fellow Democrats Wednesday, calling a series of lawmakers to the White House in the hope of ending infighting and getting them in line.

Why it matters: Divisions within the party are threatening to derail Biden's top priorities. After several weeks of letting negotiations play out, the president is finally asserting his power to ensure his own party doesn't block his agenda.