Morning Business Memo…
Automakers are facing new questions about turbocharged cars. Consumer Reports says buyers may not be getting the speed or fuel economy they expect. The magazine says today that its tests showed turbocharged models from Ford, Hyundai and Kia are less efficient than competitors. It also said the turbocharged Chevrolet Cruze got little extra power or fuel economy. The magazine praised a turbocharged four-cylinder from BMW. Turbochargers pump extra air into engines to boost power. Carmakers charge more for them, promising extra power. Consumer Reports said a new Ford Fusion with an optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine was slower and got lower fuel economy than a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Nissan Altima with regular engines. Ford said it can’t speak for Consumer Reports’ tests, but its surveys show EcoBoost customers are satisfied with their fuel economy.
Saving money on gas is more important than ever. Average gas prices surged in the past week. The Energy Department says the average increase was 18 cents a gallon nationwide. Will prices keep on rising? Some experts say no. “There really is plenty of domestic oil,” says Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service. “There’s plenty of refining capability. We’ll see prices go up as they usually do, but I think we’ll calm down somewhere in the next 60 or 75 days.”
Oh, what a feeling for Toyota. The firm might consider reviving its old ad slogan after its latest report. The world’s largest carmaker raised its fiscal year profit forecast. Fourth quarter profits rose 23 percent compared to the year before. Sales were up 9 percent. Toyota also raised its sales forecast for the fiscal year through March, to $237 billion, up 17 percent from the previous fiscal year.
The shoe has dropped in the mortgage mess. The Justice Department is going after Standard and Poor’s, the largest ratings firm, accusing it of inflating the housing bubble. A federal lawsuit was filed last night in Los Angeles. The government alleges that rosy endorsements of risky mortgage backed securities ignored Standard and Poor’s own standards. According to the New York Times, the civil suit claims that between 2004 and 2007, S&P “knowingly and with the intent to defraud, devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud investors”. The collapse of mortgage bonds triggered the financial crisis that cost investors billions of dollars. In a statement reacting to the lawsuit, S&P called the government’s lawsuit “entirely without factual or legal merit.” The company complained that it was being punished unfairly for failing to predict the collapse of the housing market. The lawsuit is the first federal crackdown against ratings firms linked to the mortgage mess. Some state prosecutors are expected to join the federal lawsuit.
If you’re on Twitter, did the folks you follow have a lot to say about the Superbowl? The social networking site reports record numbers of tweets on Sunday night. Beyonce’s splashy show, the power outage and a captivating game combined to generate a record 24.1 million posts. That’s up from 13.7 million last year
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc