- - Monday, January 9, 2012

MICHIGAN

Chevrolet aims concept vehicles at millennials

DETROIT — Chevrolet is aiming a pair of concept cars at the millennial generation, giving them a look at what the outside of the coupes might look like and asking them to help design the interiors.

The General Motors Co. brand on Monday unveiled the Code 130R and Tru 140S at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Both offer room for four, and promise a fuel-efficient 40 mpg. Neither has an interior made and Chevrolet will seek public input on that.

The two-door Code 130R borrows from the look of a muscle car. The Tru 140S hatchback is designed as an affordable version of an exotic sportscar.

Chevrolet, like many other automakers, sees the roughly 70 million millennials born in the U.S. between 1981 and 2000 as a growing market.

TEXAS

Lawsuit against J&J over drug to go to trial

AUSTIN — Texas is seeking more than $1 billion in damages in a lawsuit that accuses Johnson & Johnson of overstating the safety of an anti-psychotic drug and influencing its use in the state’s Medicaid program.

Jury selection got under way Monday in an Austin courtroom. A whistle-blower filed the lawsuit then Texas joined it.

The lawsuit is one of dozens of pending state and federal cases alleging illegal marketing practices and kickbacks in an effort to boost Risperdal over competing drugs. Risperdal is a pill for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Johnson & Johnson says it will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit’s claims.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

ILLINOIS

Telemarketing scheme boss gets 15 years

EAST. ST. LOUIS — A judge in East St. Louis has sentenced a New Jersey woman to more than 15 years in prison for heading a time-share telemarketing scheme that bilked $30 million from more than 22,000 victims across North American and Puerto Rico.

Jennifer Kirk of Howell, N.J., sobbed while making an apologetic statement to a federal judge before her sentencing Monday. She’d pleaded guilty in June to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Kirk acknowledged the harm she did to the victims and suggested she’d gotten in over her head. The judge was not swayed, calling her manipulative and aggressive.

Prosecutors say Kirk operated Florida-based Universal Marketing Solutions and later Creative Vacation Solutions.

Authorities say her companies pocketed the money telemarketers solicited from time-share owners.

GERMANY

VW sales topped 8 million in 2011

FRANKFURT — German automaker Volkswagen AG expects a tough 2012 even as it reported record sales of more than 8 million vehicles last year that put it ahead of Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp.

Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday that it delivered 8.156 million vehicles in 2011, a 14 percent rise over the previous year.

Toyota, whose production suffered from the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, has reported sales of 7.9 million vehicles in 2011, while General Motors Co. has not yet reported. It is expected to have sold some 9 million based on projections from the first three quarters.

Volkswagen, whose brands include Audi, Skoda and Seat, has a goal of producing 10 million vehicles per year and passing Toyota and GM to become the world’s biggest automaker by 2018. Some analysts have said that VW is already the world’s biggest because GM’s figures include vehicles made by a joint venture in China.

The Detroit-based automaker had been at the top for more than seven decades until Toyota took the crown in 2008.

Volkswagen’s top sales and marketing executive, Christian Klingler, said that “all the company’s brands have shown increases in difficult conditions on volatile markets” and called the 2011 figures “an outstanding result.”

But he added that the coming year will be demanding. “In 2012 the risks are increasing above all on European markets.”

The 17 countries that use the euro are struggling with a financial crisis over too much government debt. Fears that a country may default and damage the banking system have weighed on the wider economy and many think the eurozone economy may have shrunk in the last three months of 2011.

From wire dispatches and staff reports