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New York (AirGuide - Destination News - Car Rental) Jan 22, 2012

Highway safety agency needs electronics expertise, group says The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should step up its technical expertise in evaluating automotive electronics, according to a study by a National Academy of Sciences committee. The NAS committee recommended that the federal agency "give explicit consideration to the oversight challenges arising from automotive electronics" and "develop and articulate a long-term strategy for meeting the challenges." Jan 20, 2012

Ford Technology can reduce distractions for drivers, Ford CEO says. While the National Transportation Safety Board is advocating a national ban on drivers' use of mobile phones, Ford Motor is asserting that adding more technology to vehicles doesn't necessarily mean more distraction for the driver. "This [technology] is the way the world is going ... people aren't going to be disconnected in a connected world," said Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford, adding that the company was working to address the issue with technology that "absolutely will remove driver distraction." Jan 20, 2012

General Motors, Ford Motor, Chrysler Group LLC, Nissan Motor Auto Plants at Capacity Buoying All Parts of U.S. Economy: Cars. Bobbi Marsh puts her 11-year-old son to bed each night and then heads to her job at General Motors Co. (GM)Os metal-stamping plant in Lordstown, Ohio. She gets home in time to make him breakfast. Marsh, 34, is one of thousands of auto workers in the U.S. benefiting from the return of a third shift at factories -- often from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. -- translating to 24-hour-a-day production at many plants for the first time since the industry collapse in 2009. At the nadir, some plants ran only one eight- hour shift. The new third shifts, adding more than 4,300 jobs in four states at GM alone, bring jobs to the economy and revenue to governments as well as demand at odd hours for everything from daycare and dentistry to financial services and food. U.S. auto plants this year may operate at about 81 percent of capacity after falling as low as 49 percent in 2009, according to estimates from IHS Automotive in Northville, Michigan. OItOs been great: I can spend all evening with my son,O said Marsh, 34, a three-year GM employee who lives near the plant about 60 miles southeast of Cleveland. She switched from working evenings to the overnight shift when it was reinstated last year and sleeps from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. OIt does take a different kind of person to work third shift, but I love it.O Automakers are increasing production at the car plants after the U.S. light-vehicle sales rose by at least 10 percent for two straight years for the first time since 1984 and grew at a faster rate than China, the worldOs biggest auto market, for the first time in at least 13 years. States that were hard-hit by the downturn, such as Michigan and Ohio, are among the biggest beneficiaries, adding jobs at places like RossO Eatery & Pub and Tony MOs. 15 Plants GM, Ford Motor Co. (F), Chrysler Group LLC, Nissan Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. (000270) have either added U.S. production beyond the traditional two shifts or announced plans to do so at 15 plants, including six in Michigan, since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in the middle of 2009. OThereOs no question weOre running full-out,O said Kim Rodriguez, a principal at KPMGOs auto-consulting business in Detroit. OAfter China, the U.S. was the market where executives expect the most growth, which is staggering considering where we were.O Businesses from auto suppliers to trucking companies are hustling to add capacity and find new workers to adapt to the increased production, she said. Restaurant Hours For GM worker Marsh in Ohio, the new job means off-hour grocery trips to the 24-hour Giant Eagle supermarket and late- night orders from RossO Eatery & Pub, which gets 75 percent of its restaurant business from the three shifts at the Lordstown complex that builds the Chevrolet Cruze sedan. The restaurant now runs from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. to accommodate the new shift, expanding last year from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. OWe had been treading water for what seemed like an eternity -- it was just me, my mom and my aunt running the placeO during the auto crisis, said owner Earl Ross, 36. He now employs 20, up from the three family members just a couple of years ago, to supply the plant with fried chicken, burgers and his signature USD6.99 Philly steak sandwich. Ohio added 79,300 jobs through November 2011 from December 2010, an improvement from a decade when only Michigan among U.S. states lost a larger percentage of jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ohio was second in the nation to Michigan in vehicle production in 2010, according to the state Department of Development. Market Growing The momentum for added production is expected to continue this year as auto deliveries may rise about 5.6 percent to 13.5 million, the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Vehicle sales rose 11 percent in 2010 and 10 percent last year after sales fell to a 27-year low of 10.4 million sales in 2009. A third shift at a Midwestern U.S. auto plant typically requires about 1,000 direct workers and creates about 7,850 spinoff jobs ranging from police and fire workers to construction, retail and restaurant employees, according to estimates from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. About a third of the positions are within 60 miles of the plant. Michigan gained 63,500 jobs in 2011, according to the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics at the University of Michigan. It was the first job gain in the state since the turn of the century. The group predicts a net gain of 26,000 jobs this year, 28,500 in 2013, and 46,800 in 2014. Tony MOs Lasagna The overnight shift at GMOs sport-utility vehicle factory in Delta Township, Michigan, near the state capital of Lansing, has meant a 40 percent increase in business at Tony MOs restaurant nearby, said Stefan Farrell, the general manager at the eatery that specializes in pizza and lasagna. The restaurant, which boasts a highly guarded sauce recipe, has expanded the business hours from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. each day,...

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