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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
U.S. auto industry made gains in January; Toyota sales fall 16%


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Toyota's sales in the United States may fall even further this month as it suffers the effect of having to suspend sales of eight models because of defective gas pedals.

Associated Press library photo

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DETROIT The U.S. auto industry rebounded from last January's sales collapse with one big exception: Toyota, which lost an estimated 20,000 sales after it stopped selling eight models because of defective gas pedals.

Last month, U.S. sales of cars and light trucks rose 6 percent from a year earlier, thanks to increases in fleet sales and strong demand for newly redesigned vehicles such as the Hyundai Tucson SUV and Buick LaCrosse sedan. Big winners included General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., which all posted double-digit sales increases.

But Toyota's sales slipped 16 percent, and they could fall further as its sales stoppage drags into February. It was the first time since February 1998 that Toyota's monthly U.S. sales fell below 100,000 vehicles, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.

In Washington, meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sharply criticized Toyota Motor Corp. yesterday for dragging its feet on safety concerns over its gas pedals, suggesting the automaker was "a little safety deaf" to mounting evidence of problems.

CITIGROUP WILL OPEN 4 RETAIL BRANCHES IN JAPAN

TOKYO Citigroup Inc. is ready to start growing again in Japan.

The company said yesterday it will open four retail branches this year, marking the banking giant's first expansion here since selling several of its Japanese finance businesses in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The first two locations will open in the second quarter in the central Tokyo districts of Marunouchi and Nihonbashi, Citibank Japan Ltd. said in a statement. Details of the other two branches have not been released.

Citibank said it will use the four new locations to experiment with smart banking services that incorporate "new concepts and technology."

"Japan is innovative, highly competitive, and with strong customer expectations for service and quality," Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit said in the statement. "One of our biggest ongoing opportunities will be to take what we're learning from Japan, and to apply it to the rest of Citi and scale it for other organizations, which will also be a see for more innovation in the future."

The openings will add to Citibank's current 31 branches and help new Japan country head Darren Buckley bolster the company's business in the world's second-biggest economy.