TOYOTA SALES UP AS GM, FORD AND CHRYSLER'S DIP: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler saw double-digit U.S. sales declines, but Toyota's sales edged up 3 percent in April, as high gas prices accelerated consumers' rush away from trucks and sport utility vehicles. Weak sales were expected throughout the industry as gas prices rose to record highs. Automakers reported sales Thursday. General Motors Corp. said its truck and SUV sales were down 27 percent, dragging down increases in car and crossover sales and GM's best-ever month for hybrids. GM's overall sales were down 16 percent for the month compared with last April. Sales of GM's midsize Chevrolet Malibu shot up 40 percent, but the long popular Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUV saw sales dip 73 percent. Ford Motor Co. said its SUV sales were down 36 percent in April compared with the same month last year, and its overall sales were down 12 percent. Car sales were down only 1 percent, buoyed by sales of the Ford Focus, which saw a 44 percent jump in sales. The Focus gets 24 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway. By comparison, Ford's largest SUV, the Expedition, gets 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway. Toyota Motor Corp. said its car sales rose 12 percent, largely on the strength of the subcompact Yaris, which saw sales rise 46 percent and the hybrid Prius, which was up 54 percent. Toyota's truck and SUV sales dropped 8 percent. Chrysler LLC said sales fell 23 percent, with car sales down 19 percent and truck and SUV sales down 25 percent.
AIRLINES SLOW DOWN TO SAVE ON FUEL: Drivers have long known that slowing down on the highway means getting more miles to the gallon. Now airlines are trying it, too -- adding a few minutes to flights to save millions on fuel. Southwest Airlines started flying slower about two months ago and projects it will save $42 million in fuel this year by extending each flight by one to three minutes. On one Northwest Airlines flight from Paris to Minneapolis earlier this week alone, flying slower saved 162 gallons of fuel, saving the airline $535. It added eight minutes to the flight, extending it to eight hours, 58 minutes. That meant flying at an average speed of 532 mph, down from the usual 542 mph. But the savings add up. JetBlue adds an average of just under two minutes to each flight, and saves about $13.6 million a year in jet fuel. Adding just four minutes to its flights to and from Hawaii saves Northwest Airlines $600,000 a year. United Airlines has invested in flight planning software that helps pilots choose the best routes and speeds to cut down on costs.
DISNEY TAKES OVER DISNEY STORES FROM CHILDREN'S PLACE: The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it has taken over 220 Disney Store outlets in North America from The Children's Place Retail Stores Inc. and will close about 98 stores in the United States and two in Canada. The move to reclaim most of the money-losing operation came after the Children's Place subsidiary that ran the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. Analysts said Disney's reclamation of just two-thirds of the stores and the elimination of license fees paid to Disney would help make the outlets profitable again.
A BUTTER SHORTAGE: Japan has so far escaped the shortages of rice besetting other nations, but it's running short of a food product the Japanese once disparagingly associated with foreigners -- butter. The Agriculture Ministry said Thursday it ordered the nation's four major dairy producers to churn out more butter because the product is disappearing fast from store shelves. A drought in Australia drove up the cost of cattle feed and demand for butter also has risen elsewhere in Asia. The butter shortage is somewhat ironic for Japan, where Westerners centuries ago were told they "smelled of butter." But today, Japanese households consume about 13,800 tons of butter a year, and more is used by bakeries and other businesses.
BEE NEWS SERVICES
75: Percentage of employees who are stressed due to financial concerns, according to a national survey by Workplace Options.
45: Percentage of respondents who report that their financial stress makes it harder for them to do their job.
76: Percentage of Americans who prefer a dollar bill to a coin, according to a Harris poll.
24: Percentage who favor abolishing the penny.
UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE