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Fiat Chrysler proposes 50-50 merger with Renault – TechCrunch

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has proposed merging its business with Renault that, if accepted, would create the third largest global automaker with 8.7 million in annual vehicle sales.

FCA delivered Monday a non-binding letter to Renault’s board that proposes combining the business as a 50-50 merger. FCA’s proposal illustrates the growing desire among automakers to consolidate, or form partnerships, in an environment of increasing regulatory pressure, declining sales and rising costs associated with next-generation technologies such as autonomous vehicle technology.

Under the proposal, the combined businesses would be split equally between FCA and Renault shareholders. The board would be a combined entity of 11 members, FCA said. The majority would be independent. FCa and Renault would get equal represent with four members each as well as one nominee from Nissan. The parent company would be listed on the Borsa Italiana in Milan, Euronext in Paris and the New York Stock Exchange.

French automaker Renault has an alliance with Nissan Motor. The two companies, whose relationship has become stressed in the fallout over the arrest of former Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn and subsequent power struggle, share vehicle parts and collaborate on technology. Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan. Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault.

Fiat Chrysler is best known in U.S. for the company behind the Jeep and Ram trucks. But its business is far larger. Fiat, which has a market value of $20 billion, is also one of Italy’s oldest companies and owns brands like Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, and Maserati.

Fiat acquired a stake in Chrysler in 2009. The FCA people know today — which employs nearly 200,000 people — was created when the companies merged in 2014.

The proposed merger would result in cost savings. However, FCA insists it would not come from plant closures. No factories would close as a result of the merger, FCA said in its proposal. In a release describing the proposal FCA states:

The benefits of the proposed transaction are not predicated on plant closures, but would be achieved through more capital efficient investment in common global vehicle platforms, architectures, powertrains and technologies.

The combined companies would realize more than 5 billion euros in estimated annual run rate savings by collaborating on products and in certain regions, particularly when it comes to the development and commercialize of new technologies. FCA noted that these areas included connectivity, electrification and autonomous driving.

FCA argued that is has a history of “successfully combining OEMs with disparate cultures to create strong leadership teams and organizations dedicated to a single purpose.”

Those cost savings will be crucial for both companies if there’s a downturn in sales — a reality that other automakers like GM and Ford are already preparing for. It would also allow the companies to pursue technologies such as advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.

FCA, which operates 46 research and development centers, has invested in advanced driver assistance systems like its highway assist feature offered in its Maserati brand. It has also relied on partnerships such as the one with self-driving vehicle company Waymo .

Last year, the company announced an expanded partnership with Waymo that will add up to 62,000 more Chrysler  Pacifica minivans to Waymo’s self-driving car fleet. The two companies are also working on ways to license Waymo’s self-driving car technology in order to deploy the tech in cars for consumers.

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Audio-Technica true wireless earbuds case recalled over fire risk

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Audio-Technica, a company known for its high-end personal audio devices, has recalled the charging cases for its ATH-CK3TW true wireless earbuds after receiving multiple reports of overheating ‘incidents.’ The recall was recently highlighted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which notes that consumers who own the case can get it replaced for free.

The Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW true wireless earbuds were announced in September 2019. As with other true wireless headphones on the market, the product involves two individual earpieces, as well as a charging case that contains a battery for recharging the earbuds. Consumers charge the case using a USB cable.

In a new post on its website, the US CPSC reports that about 7,450 charging cases sold as part of the ATH-CK3TW model have been recalled due to a risk of overheating, which may lead to a fire. These cases are made of plastic and sold in multiple colors; Audio-Technica will replace regardless of the shade, though.

Consumers who own a pair of true wireless Audio-Technica earbuds can check the model number on the back of the charging case. Assuming you have a recalled unit, you should stop using it immediately and get in touch with Audio-Technica, which will provide you with a prepaid shipping label to return the case to the company.

Once the case is received, the company will ship the consumer a replacement case that’ll work with their earpieces. Though there haven’t been any injuries reported in association with this recall, the company notes that four cases of overheating happened outside of the US and that damage to both the charging surface and case resulted.

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Oculus Quest subscriptions roll out for games and apps

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Oculus today announced that it’s now allowing developers to offer subscriptions to their apps. While perhaps not the best fit for gaming – which Oculus was centered around at the beginning of its life – the company says that by offering subscriptions, it can offer monetization options that make Quest a better fit for other types of apps. Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for subscription offerings, but in today’s announcement, Oculus listed several different apps that will offer them to start.

There are six different apps that are adding subscriptions today: FitXR, Rec Room, Tribe XR, TRIPP, vSpatial, and VZfit. Oculus says that content you’ve previously purchased in these apps will continue to be accessible after these subscriptions go live, so it sounds like developers won’t be allowed to remove content that’s already been paid for and stick it behind a subscription.

In FitXR, for instance, Oculus says that subscribers will get a new instructor-led class from the existing Box and Dance studios and the upcoming HIIT studio each day, along with access to multiplayer. Those who already purchased FitXR will keep the content they’ve paid for (which includes Add-On packs). While newcomers to the app will get a seven-day free trial to the FitXR subscription service, those who already own the app will get a 90-day trial.

With Rec Room, we see something entirely different. While the base app will continue to be free, a subscription called Rec Room Plus will be offered as something of a premium tier for those who want it. The monthly subscription will net users 6,000 tokens each month – which translates to $10 of real world cash – along with weekly four-star items and access to a special section of the store that’s reserved for subscribers.

Ultimately, what you get with a subscription depends on the app – some might require a subscription to access the app, while others might just offer the subscription as a bonus for those interested in getting some extra content. Oculus says that you’ll be able to cancel subscriptions at any time. To read more about the subscriptions being offered by these initial six apps, check out today’s blog post on the Oculus website.

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Apple Fitness+ adds workouts for beginners plus older and pregnant users

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Apple Fitness+ is gaining new workouts today, adding specific sessions for pregnancy and that target older adults and beginners. It’s part of a workout boost for the Apple Watch-centered subscription fitness system, and will also include a new Time to Walk session with Jane Fonda.

Announced last year, Fitness+ opened up its guided sessions in December 2020. It relies on exercise tracking through the Apple Watch, with tutorials and classes delivered via a variety of the company’s screens, such as Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone.

One of the challenges early-adopters have found, particularly those just getting into fitness, is trying to get up to speed. That’s something Apple is addressing today, with new workouts for beginners. Offered across the Yoga, Strength, and HIIT workout types, they consist of low-impact exercises and spend more time on how to perfect form to build good habits.

Much in the same way, the new workouts for older adults focus on the specific needs of older people trying to get – or stay – fit. They center on strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and mobility, Apple says, with a series of eight sessions led by trainer Molly Fox, with guest appearances by Gregg Cook for Strength, Dustin Brown for Yoga, Bakari Williams for HIIT, and Jhon Gonzalez for Dance.

Each workout is 10 minutes long, and many can be completed with either bodyweight or a light dumbbell, Apple says. Alternatively, they may use a chair or involve leaning against the wall. They can also be combined with other Fitness+ workouts, carrying those modifications over.

Finally, there’s a new workouts for pregnancy series. 10 sessions – covering Strength, Core, and Mindful Cooldown – will be led by Betina Gozo alongside trainers Emily Fayette and Anja Garcia, each 10 minutes in length. They’re designed, Apple says, to suit any stage of pregnancy along with any fitness level. Again, as with the older fitness sessions, they also include suggestions on how to modify the more general Fitness+ workouts in ways to accommodate those who are pregnant.

Beyond the three specific categories, there are now two new trainers: one in the Yoga section, and the other in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). From April 19, meanwhile, Jane Fonda’s Time to Walk session will be added. That takes the form of an audio interview with paired walking instructions.

Apple Fitness+ is currently available in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. Three months access is bundled with a new Apple Watch Series 3 or later, while existing owners can try it free for a month. After that, it’s $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year – for up to six family members to share – or bundle as part of the $29.95 Apple One Premiere plan.

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