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Much of auto cheer bypassed Detroit
business sense column

 J.D. Holm Sr. of Radley Cadillac looks over inventory. U.S. vehicle sales for 2012 were up 13 percent.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/6/2013

By Howard Owen

THE GOOD news: Americans bought about 14.5 million new cars and trucks in 2012, up 13 percent from 2011 and the best showing in five years. With the average car age over 11 years, a record, we were ready to buy.

The bad news: Most of the biggest strides were not made by Detroit. Toyota sales were up 27 percent. Honda's were up 24 percent. Nissan and Infiniti showed nearly 10 percent improvement. Volkswagen's sales rose 35 percent.

Chrysler saw a 21 percent jump, but the two larger Detroit survivors, Ford (5 percent) and GM (3.7 percent), lagged far behind.

Polk, an auto research group, predicts that 2013 will be even better for auto sales. Polk forecasts 15.3 million new-vehicle purchases this year.

More good news (unless you're a utility company): According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States is curbing its use of electricity. The Energy Information Administration predicts that we will use only 0.7 percent more annually for homes and 0.6 percent for industrial use through 2040, despite the fact that our gadgets are multiplying like rabbits.

The other side of the coin: We're consuming less because we're producing less. From 1998 to 2010, electricity used for manufacturing dropped 18 percent.

Not surprisingly, China consumed 7.6 percent more electricity year-to-year, according to figures released in December.

It seems only yesterday that our big worry was energy conservation. It's amazing how a Great Recession changes people's perspective.

When the jobs come back, we'll have time to worry about saving the planet.

Good news for hardly anyone who isn't trying to pare down the national debt:

Among the many changes in tax laws this year is raising the adjusted gross income floor for medical expenses from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. Not much point in hanging on to those receipts from the pharmacy from now on.

Business Editor Howard Owen writes this biweekly column on business and the economy. He can be reached at 540/ 374-5539 or howen@free lancestar.com.