- - Monday, August 1, 2011

AUTOS

July a weak month for U.S. sales

DETROIT — Car shoppers worried about the U.S. economy last month and that kept sales in a funk.

U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks are expected to rise only slightly in July. The weak economy and high sticker prices kept Americans from buying more. Automakers are scheduled to report last month’s sales on Tuesday.

July extends a disappointing stretch for automakers after a strong start this year. Sales slowed in May and June after an earthquake in Japan cut into supplies of small cars that were in demand because of high gas prices. Those shortages, and higher car prices, turned off many buyers.

Edmunds said supply constraints began to ease for Japanese automakers in July. Sales are forecast at 1.06 million, up 1.6 percent from last July, according to the automotive website.

AIRLINES

Delta to refund taxes for travel during shutdown

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines said on Monday it will refund the ticket taxes charged for travel during the Federal Aviation Administration shutdown.

The refunds will apply to people who bought tickets before the FAA shutdown began on July 23 and then traveled during the shutdown. Passengers who bought tickets after the shutdown began didn’t pay the taxes anyway. They paid higher fares instead.

The refunds won’t happen right away. Delta said it is waiting for guidance from the IRS about how to handle that.

Last week, the Internal Revenue Service said airlines could issue direct refunds. Delta is the first to say it will do so. Other airlines have been referring travelers to the IRS for refunds. The IRS has said passengers who can’t get a refund from their airline will eventually be able to submit a claim to the IRS along with proof of taxes paid and travel dates.

RECALL

1.1 million Ford pickups recalled for gas-tank problem

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. is recalling 1.1 million pickup trucks because the gas tanks can fall off and cause fires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday on its website that the metal straps holding the tanks can rust, allowing them to fall, rupture and catch fire.

The defect has been blamed for eight fires, three of which spread to the rest of the truck. One person was injured, suffering first- and second-degree burns, Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said.

The recall affects certain 1997 through 2004 Ford F-150 models, as well as some 1997 through 1999 model year F-250 pickups. Also affected are Lincoln Blackwood pickups from the 2002 and 2003 model years. They were sold in cold-weather states where salt is used to clear roads. The salt corroded straps holding the tanks and they broke, NHTSA said.

The trucks were originally sold or are now registered in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

MINNESOTA

1,300 workers locked out at American Crystal Sugar

MOORHEAD — Replacement workers were on the job at seven American Crystal Sugar plants and some employees were picketing outside them Monday, after about 1,300 union members were locked out of facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The union’s contract expired at midnight Sunday after workers overwhelmingly rejected what the company called its final offer. The largest beet sugar processor in the U.S. had offered a 17 percent pay increase over five years, but workers were upset about provisions covering job security and health care costs.

Although American Crystal accounts for 38 percent of the country’s production of sugar from beets and 15 percent overall, the company said it doesn’t believe the lockout will affect sugar production or the industry outlook. Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for administration, said experienced workers are coming in from around the country and many will receive additional training.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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