Business Briefs – February 21, 2019

Ford Begins Probe Into Whether Gas Mileage Was Overstated

DETROIT (AP) – Ford Motor Co. has launched an investigation into whether it overstated gas mileage and understated emissions from a wide range of vehicles.

The company said Thursday that in September, a group of employees reported possible problems with a mathematical model used to calculate pollution and mileage, prompting the company to hire an outside firm to run tests. Testing will start with the 2019 Ford Ranger small pickup truck, and if problems are found, the company will start looking at models dating to 2017.

Ford said it has no evidence yet that mileage or pollution numbers are wrong.

U.S. Says Airfares Hit New Lows After Factoring Inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) – The average fare for airline travel within the U.S. has hit the lowest level since the government started keeping track in 1995, after adjusting for inflation.

However, that doesn’t count fees that airlines add for things like checking a bag or getting a better seat.

Airlines get an increasing share of their revenue from those fees and from deals with credit-card providers.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Thursday that the average domestic itinerary was $343 in the third quarter of last year. The average round trip was $417, and the average one-way ticket was $249.

The overall figure of $343 is down $2 from the third quarter of 2017 and $7 lower than the second quarter of 2018.

White House Ends California Talks on Mileage Dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration on Thursday broke off talks on vehicle mileage standards with California, increasing the chances of a court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said it would now move unilaterally to finish its own mileage rule later this year “with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

The administration’s action challenges California’s decades-old authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards. California has used a waiver that Congress granted it under the 1970s Clean Air Act to help deal with its punishing smog.

Report: U.S. Company to Stop Sales of Genetic Tech in Xinjiang

BEIJING (AP) – Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. says it will no longer sell or service genetic sequencers in China’s mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang following criticism they were used for surveillance that enabled human rights abuses, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The company in Waltham, Massachusetts, cited its “values, ethics code and policies,” according to the Journal. The company said it recognized the importance of considering how products “are used — or may be used — by our customers.”

Thermo Fisher faced criticism from human rights groups and American lawmakers for supplying the equipment used to identify individuals in Xinjiang. The region is under intense security measures as part of what the government says is an effort to stop extremism and separatist movements.

U.S. Home Sales Tumbled 1.2 Percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. home sales fell 1.2 percent in January to their worst pace in more than three years, as persistent affordability problems have put a harsh chill in the real estate market.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of existing homes declined 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million last month, the slowest sales rate since November 2015.

During the past 12 months, sales have plunged 8.5 percent. Would-be homebuyers are increasingly priced out of the market as years of climbing prices and strained inventories have made ownership too costly. A solid job market has done little to boost sales, with the sharpest annual sales declines being among homes priced less than $250,000.