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Shocking: Volt price drops

OSHAWA, Ont. -- General Motors is slashing the Canadian sticker price of the Chevrolet Volt as electric cars continue to lag behind their gas-guzzling peers.

The 2014 model of the Volt will start at $36,895, plus more than $1,600 in taxes and fees.

That's about $5,000 off the price of the previous model, which cost $42,000 before fees.

Earlier this month, General Motors knocked 13 per cent off the Volt's U.S. sticker price in a bid to keep pace with rivals in the market for plug-in vehicles. That brought the cost of the U.S. Volt to $34,995 including shipping.

Electric cars were once billed as the answer to high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil, but U.S. oil production has risen while pump prices have remained relatively stable over the past few years.

Plus, gas-powered cars have got more efficient, making consumers reluctant to give them up.

All of this has made it difficult for the popularity of electric cars to gain ground. Although sales of electric vehicles are rising, they still make up a small piece of the overall industry.

Automakers have been cutting prices in order to move the vehicles off dealer lots.

Legumex sees Q2 loss

LEGUMEX Walker Inc. says it recorded a second-quarter net loss of $8.7 million compared with a profit of $250,000 a year ago.

The net loss equals to 53 cents per share, compared with a profit of two cents per share during the same quarter last year.

Revenue grew 64 per cent to $112.1 million compared with $68.5 million last year.

The company said its oilseed-processing segment lost $3.2 million during the quarter because its Pacific Coast Canola plant was still in the commissioning phase. That was partially offset by increased volumes and margins from its sunflower, flax and bird-food sales.

The company also saw a $1-million decrease in its special crops segment because its margins for edible beans were smaller compared to the second quarter of 2012.


Banks can take downturn

OTTAWA -- The Fitch ratings service says it believes Canada's big banks can likely withstand a moderate to severe housing downturn -- but they would feel the pinch.

The Chicago-based service says Canada's biggest six banks -- TD, RBC, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Scotiabank and National -- all have equity ratios well above what is required under the new Basel III requirements.

But the rating service said a housing crash in Canada would push down those ratios as the value of their mortgage assets plunge in relation to their considerable loan levels.

In fact, Fitch said, it's because Canadian home values have been rising in the last seven years despite a soft economy that the six banks have been able to appear so financially sound, as their rivals in the U.S. and Europe have struggled.

Fitch also said loan-to-value ratios can reverse quickly during a housing correction.

"Fitch generally believes that Canadian home prices are likely nearing a plateau and could exhibit some weakness over a medium-term time horizon," the rating service said in an assessment issued Tuesday.


Airline merger opposed

WASHINGTON -- The federal government is trying to block the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways, saying it would cause "substantial harm" to consumers by leading to higher fares and fees.

The U.S. Justice Department, joined by the attorneys general of six states and the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit to block the merger Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The airlines said the government's conclusions were wrong, and they vowed to use "all legal options" to fight back. The government's action threatens to quash a deal that would create the world's largest airline by passenger miles. The airlines could challenge the government in court, or possibly agree to concessions that would convince regulators to approve the merger.

The lawsuit caught many observers by surprise.

In the last five years, antitrust regulators had allowed three other major airline mergers to go ahead, leaving five airlines in control of about 80 per cent of the domestic market.

But the government argued this merger would hurt consumers around the country by eliminating a competitor on more than 1,000 routes. Mergers have helped the industry limit seats, push fares higher and return to profitability.

"This is the best news that consumers could have possible gotten," said Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2013 B8

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