New Honda Accord Hybrid about to go on sale; ski areas say shutdown won’t affect season

10/07/2013 11:31 AM

10/07/2013 12:39 PM

New Honda Accord

Honda Motor Co., first to sell hybrids in the U.S., plans a gasoline-electric lineup overhaul starting with an Accord Hybrid it says tops Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. sedans as it seeks relevancy in the segment.

The 2014 version of Tokyo-based Honda’s flagship sedan goes on sale Oct. 31, with a base price comparable with a V-6 engine version of the Accord, and that’s rated as getting 50 miles (80 kilometers) per gallon in city driving. That’s just the start, said John Mendel, executive vice president of the U.S. unit.

Honda needs better-selling hybrids. Current models, including the Insight hatchback, CR-Z coupe and a version of the Civic, generate a fraction of Prius deliveries. Honda’s Insight beat the Toyota hybrid to the U.S. by about six months. Yet the company that led U.S. fuel economy ranking for years stumbled in designing a compelling challenger to Prius.

“Accord is a great place for us to stop the science experiments and really make a name for our hybrids,” Mendel said in an interview in San Antonio last week. “We’re known for fuel economy, but in hybrids, it’s about relevance and volume. We think Accord can do that.”

The Accord Hybrid’s label rating, a combined 47 mpg in city and highway driving based on U.S. government tests, ranks it behind only Prius, a mid-size car that averages 51 mpg in the city, 48 mpg on the highway and 50 mpg combined, the best of any non-rechargeable vehicle in the U.S.

While Ford’s Fusion hybrid is also rated 47 mpg combined, Ford faces lawsuits claiming the car’s mileage is overstated. Toyota’s hybrid Camry averages a combined 41 mpg.

Go skiing

A group representing the nation’s ski industry said Monday it expects no major impact on this year’s ski season because of federal furloughs, even though about a third of the more than 350 resorts are located on federal land regulated by the U.S. Forest Service.

Michael Berry, spokesman for the National Ski Areas Association, said most expansion projects and construction that require federal approval have been completed as opening days approach in the $6 billion a year industry. Delays could occur as a result of other projects in the pipeline, he said.

Berry said he talked with Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell to clarify how the shutdown would affect the 121 ski areas operating on federal land and was assured resort leases are not immediately affected.

“The fact of the matter is, this will have no impact on ski area operations. Having said that, there are certain things in progress, and Forest Service furloughs may slow things like that down,” he said.

The federal government regulates expansion projects, environmental reviews and lease agreements that are subject to public review.

The ski association sent a memo last week to all ski areas operating with a special use permit on public lands administered by the Forest Service, advising them about the federal agency’s decision.

“Ski areas may continue to operate, as the improvements are not government-owned. Privately owned improvements are not to be affected by the shutdown,” the memo said.

Oil prices drop

West Texas Intermediate crude dropped as the U.S. neared a breach of the debt ceiling and production from the Gulf of Mexico resumed after a tropical storm.

Prices fell as much as 1.9 percent. House Speaker John Boehner said the country could end up in default if President Barack Obama doesn’t negotiate over the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans want weakened or delayed. A partial U.S. government shutdown entered a seventh day. Companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. returned workers to platforms after Tropical Storm Karen passed through and broke up over Alabama. Futures rebounded from the day’s lows as gasoline and heating oil rose.

“The market is refocusing on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “Worries about what could result from the shutdown have re-emerged. Karen has faded and oil companies are bringing production back online.”

WTI for November delivery slipped 43 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $103.41 a barrel at 11:24 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The volume of all futures traded was 14 percent above the 100-day average for the time of day. Prices climbed last week for the first time in four weeks as Karen forced production shutdown.

Brent for November settlement advanced 9 cents to $109.55 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Volume was 6.5 percent above the 100-day average. The European benchmark was at a premium of $6.14 to WTI, up from $5.62 on Oct. 4.

BlackBerry shares up

Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. rose more than 4 percent Monday on a report that the company is in sale talks with a handful of companies.

Reuters reported Friday that the struggling smartphone maker was holding discussions with Cisco, Google and SAP about a possible sale of all or part of itself. It cited “several sources close to the matter” that it did not identify.

According to Reuters, BlackBerry has asked for preliminary expressions of interest from buyers including Intel Corp., LG and Samsung, by early next week.

BlackBerry shares rose 32 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $8.01 in morning trading Monday.

The company released a statement Monday morning declining comment on the specific report.

Star news services

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