Morning Business Memo:
Toyota believes in green. Japan's biggest car maker is boosting its green vehicle lineup, with plans for 21 new hybrids in the next three years, a new electric car later this year and a fuel-cell vehicle by 2015. The shift to eco driving by Toyota is in response to growing demand for fuel efficiency. An electric version of the Rav-4 sport utility model, which Toyota worked on with America's electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, goes on sale this month. The fuel-cell vehicle, which runs on hydrogen to produce electricity, will be offered in 2015. Details for that model were not released. Toyota is counting on its reputation for green technology that it built with its hit Prius, the world's leading gas-electric hybrid, to woo buyers. Takeshi Uchiyamada, the executive overseeing technology and new model development at Toyota, told The Associated Press the long-term potential for fuel cells was great compared to electric cars because of greater cruise range and shorter charging time. He said tens of thousands of fuel-cell vehicles were likely to get sold in the 2020s. A good compromise at the moment is the plug-in hybrid, which works as an electric vehicle until the battery runs down, and then switches to its hybrid motor, so there's less chance of being stranded than with a standard electric car.
After months of gains, the price of gas is starting to come down, thanks to lower crude oil costs and the change over to winter fuel. The Energy Department's weekly survey later today is expected to show price cuts in most states. Expect the trend to continue in the fall. The price of light sweet crude on global markets is down to $92. Earlier this month it peaked at more than $100.
Many free checking accounts might not be free. A new survey of checking accounts by the website bankrate.com shows the average fee for non-interest checking accounts rose 25 percent in the past year. "To avoid a fee bank consumers in the U.S. must keep an average minimum balance of $723 in checking accounts that pay no interest," according to the Wall Street Journal. Monthly bank charges and ATM fees continue to rise.
Foxconn, the supplier that makes Apple's iPhones, suspended production at a giant factory in northern China today. A riot at a company dormitory involving as many as 2,000 employees injured 40 people. The cause of the fight is under investigation. The plant employs 79,000 people. Foxconn assembles products for Apple and other tech companies worldwide as well as popular tech toys. The unrest is the latest in a series of incidents. After widespread complaints about poor working conditions, Foxconn has made improvements by cutting work hours and boosting wages for assembly line workers.
More clues on the state of the economy this week. Consumer confidence might show improvement when the September index is released Tuesday by the Conference Board. The Case Shiller home price index also on Tuesday is likely to show a gain and Wednesday's new home sales could be at the highest in at least a year. That's the good news on the economy, but elsewhere the picture is not so bright. Manufacturing has been sagging and that could be reflected in Thursday's Durable Goods report. Spending numbers Friday might show consumers are still in a cautious mood.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc