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Top 5 Stories
Bump In Auto Sales Boosts Consumer Morale, TV Ads
Sonic, Asbury Profit Up on Auto Recovery
Highest Gas Prices in February Since 1990, Attributed to Libya Turmoil
Ford to Recall F-150 Pickups Over Air Bags
For Car Dealers, a Bleak Lot Brightens
Top 5 Stories
Bump In Auto Sales Boosts Consumer Morale, TV Ads

Consumer spending in the U.S. was flat in 2010 — if you didn't include auto sales. New and used vehicle sales jumped 20 percent last year as consumers replaced their aging vehicles, according to a survey of businesses done by Sageworks, a financial research firm. Economists say the uptick in car sales wasn't necessarily a sign of recovery. But it was a sign that Americans are coming to believe the worst has passed. "The moment you think you've got a problem with your job opportunities and you're losing jobs, autos just collapse," says Barry Bosworth, an economist at the Brookings Institution. But cars also have a life cycle. "These cars wear out, and after a couple of years you expect a big rebound just to return to normal," Bosworth says. "But in other areas of consumer spending, it didn't go down as much. It's not going to snap back as much."
Source: National Public Radio

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Sonic, Asbury Profit Up on Auto Recovery

Auto dealer groups Sonic Automotive Inc and Asbury Automotive Group posted higher-than-expected quarterly profits on sales that outpaced the recovery in an industry bouncing back from the recessionary levels of 2009. Shares of Asbury gained 4 percent, while shares of Sonic declined almost 2 percent after a forecast for 2011 earnings that fell below the most bullish analyst expectations. U.S. auto dealer groups have reported robust fourth-quarter earnings and bright outlooks for 2011, with most projecting a gradual recovery that would take the industry back to sales last seen in 2008. "We definitely feel the momentum," newly appointed Asbury Chief Executive Craig Monaghan in a telephone interview with Reuters. "We're seeing more and more customers in the showrooms."
Source: Reuters

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Highest Gas Prices in February Since 1990, Attributed to Libya Turmoil

Weekly gas prices skyrocketed, according to the Department of Energy, driven by the popular revolts spreading across the Middle East. The U.S. weekly average price per gallon is $3.19, up 54 cents from a year ago, and slightly higher than last week's $3.14. This was the highest price posted during the month of February since 1990, when the data became available. The most expensive regions again are New England at $3.23 and California at $3.56. And why are gas prices going up? "In a word: Libya," says petroleum expert Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. "Oil hates uncertainty. It hates political turmoil," says John Hoffmeister, CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and the former president of Shell Oil. "And traders will be having customers buy it as quickly as they can to lock in supplies, and that drives the price up."
Source: ABC News

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Ford to Recall F-150 Pickups Over Air Bags

WASHINGTON -- Under government pressure, Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will recall nearly 150,000 F-150 pickup trucks to fix air bags that could deploy without warning. The recall covers trucks from the 2005-2006 model years in the United States and Canada for what the auto company calls a "relatively low risk" of the air bag deploying inadvertently. Ford said an air bag wire located in the steering wheel could have been improperly positioned so it would chafe, expose bare copper and create the possibility of a short circuit that would light up the airbag warning lamp.
Source: The Associated Press

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For Car Dealers, a Bleak Lot Brightens

As U.S. auto sales rebound, more dealers are hiring staff, upgrading their showrooms or adding locations. In Greenburg, Pa., Bud Smail is planning on spending $1 million to construct a new entry way, install new tile flooring and leather chairs at a Ford Motor Co. franchise he picked up a a couple of years ago. Bob Howard Chevrolet, in Edmond, Okla., also is getting an interior makeover with new lighting and furniture as owner Group 1 Automotive Inc. sees the business benefiting from fewer rivals.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Quotable
 
"We definitely feel the momentum. We're seeing more and more customers in the showrooms."

    -- Craig Monaghan, chief executive of Asbury Automotive Group, which posted higher-than-expected quarterly profits Tuesday, Reuters, Feb. 22

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