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Toyota Overtakes GM, Chrysler Electrifies and Fake Fried Chicken - 5 Things You Must Know

Toyota surpasses General Motors in U.S. sales, Chrysler looks to electrify, CES wows on the EV front and KFC and Beyond Meat prep to roll out plant-based fried chicken.

Here are five things you must know for Wednesday Jan. 5, 2022:

1 -- U.S. Stocks Set for Muted Open 

U.S. stock futures were mixed Wednesday morning after the Dow Jones Industrial Average notched another record close amid a broader transition away from tech stocks and into energy, industrials and other sectors that stand to benefit from a broader economic recovery.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a 32-point opening dip, while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 0.75-point increase. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite are indicating a 33.25-point drop at the start of trading as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields trading down slightly at 1.642%.

Energy, industrials and economic recovery stocks were among the early gainers, despite omicron cases continuing to surge across the U.S., though early signs in other regions like South Africa suggest the variant's unrelenting surge around the world may be peaking.

The new year has so far been good for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed Tuesday at a record high for a second straight day. The Dow finished up 214 points, or 0.59%, to 36,799, while the S&P 500 was off 0.06% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.33%.

Caterpillar (CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. Report and American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report were among the Dow's top gainers.

2 -- CDC Stops Short of Enforcing Post-Covid Testing

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended its controversial Covid-19 isolation guidance on Tuesday, declining to add a testing requirement as public health officials expected after the agency cut its recommended quarantine time in half.

In its updated guidance, the CDC said people who have recovered from the virus and have isolated for at least five days can take a rapid test if they want, but they don’t have to — falling far short of making an outright recommendation to get a negative Covid test before ending isolation.

The updated guidance comes after the CDC faced a barrage of criticism last week for shortening its recommended isolation period from 10 days to five without asking for people to get tested.

It also comes amid an ongoing shortage of Covid rapid tests, which are not only in short supply but also becoming more expensive.

Walmart  (WMT) - Get Free Report, Kroger  (KR) - Get Free Report and Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report had been selling over-the-counter tests "at cost" with a discount of up to 35% from retail prices for the past three months as part of a deal with the Biden administration, though the program ended in mid-December.

At Kroger, the price of the two-test BinaxNOW antigen kits rose on Tuesday to $23.99 from $14 previously.

3 -- Toyota Takes Pole Position as Top-Selling U.S. Automaker

Toyota Motor  (TM) - Get Free Report has taken pole position over automotive behemoth General Motors  (GM) - Get Free Report as America’s top-selling automaker in 2021, marking the first time since 1931 that the Detroit automaker wasn’t the best-selling car company in the U.S.

It also marks the first time a non-domestic automaker has taken the top spot in America.

Toyota revealed Tuesday that it sold 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2021, up 10.4% from 2020, compared with 2.2 million for GM, which was down 12.9%. The difference in sales between the two automakers was 114,034 vehicles.

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Jack Hollis, Toyota North America’s senior vice president of automotive operations, downplayed the company’s No. 1 ranking.

“Yes, we did surpass General Motors in sales,” he told reporters during a call Tuesday. “But to be clear, that is not our goal, nor do we see it as sustainable.”

GM’s stock touched a fresh 52-week high Tuesday of $65.98 a share before closing at $65.74 a share, up 7.5%. The jump followed the automaker saying the global chip shortage is easing and that it increased production at the end of the year.

4 -- Chrysler to go all-Electric by 2028

Once-prominent Chrysler plans to reinvent itself as an all-electric auto brand by 2028, the company announced Wednesday.

Those plans begin with a new crossover concept called the Chrysler Airflow that was unveiled online for the CES consumer technology show in Las Vegas. The tech-savvy concept car is “a nod” to a vehicle that the company plans to launch in 2025, Chrysler CEO Christine Feuell told CES attendees.

She said the unnamed production crossover will be the first of at least two or three new all-electric vehicles, including a minivan, planned by 2028. Chrysler will be at the forefront of parent company Stellantis’ $35.5 billion electric vehicle plans, Feuell said.

“When we sought to redefine and revitalize the Chrysler brand, we needed to make sure that we were creating differentiation within the Stellantis portfolio as well as compared to competition,” Feuell told CNBC during an online interview. “We will be adding one new product per year once we launch our first new product … and expanding that lineup between then and 2028.”

Meantime, Sony undefined on Tuesday unveiled a follow up to the electric car it revealed at CES two years ago. The new prototype is an SUV that the company is calling Vision-S 02. Sony took the sedan's EV and cloud platforms and put them in a new form factor to create the vehicle, which features a large interior that can seat seven.

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5 -- KFC to Roll Out Plant-Based Fried Chicken

KFC  (YUM) - Get Free Report is going above and Beyond...Meat, that is.

The fast-food chicken chain announced late Tuesday that it plans to roll out Beyond Fried Chicken nationwide, after a two-year testing period. 

The anticipated menu item will be available to purchase at participating KFC locations in the U.S. beginning January 10. Customers can order the item as KFC’s first ever plant-based combo meal or à la carte in six or 12-piece orders.

Created in partnership with Beyond Meat  (BYND) - Get Free Report, the limited-time meal recently made headlines in September, after KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman revealed that the chain was working hard to perfect the new plant-based offering.

KFC first tested its Beyond Meat plant-based chicken in August 2019 with a limited-run test in Atlanta. The item sold out in under five hours. A year later the companies launched expanded tests in Nashville, Charlotte and Southern California. 

Beyond Meat last August revealed that it was planning to introduce a plant-based chicken product to its lineup.