TIME Agriculture

Why There Is No Lime Industry in America Anymore

Dairoby Aldana sorts limes that have been imported from Columbia at SA Mex produce on March 26, 2014 in Miami.
Dairoby Aldana sorts limes that have been imported from Columbia at SA Mex produce on March 26, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Bad weather, disease and other factors affecting Mexico’s lime industry have made prices in the U.S. skyrocket

Across the U.S., ice waters are being served without their usual lime wheels, while lime wedges on gin cocktails are getting thin — if they’re still there at all. Bad weather, disease and crime have been ravaging Mexico’s lime crop, and because America depends almost exclusively on Mexico for its limes, domestic prices are skyrocketing.

A standard 40-lb. box of limes that would have cost a San Francisco bar manager $20 a few months ago now costs more than $120. And many of the limes in those boxes are juiceless nubs; with prices so high, Mexican growers are stripping everything they can off their trees to ship across the border, regardless of quality. Unfortunately, as one USDA Market News spokesperson says, it’s not like restaurants or grocery stores can call up Florida to get limes from domestic growers instead.

That wasn’t always the case.

Once upon a time, back in the 1940s and 1950s, there was a growing lime industry around Homestead, Fla., a town at the southern tip of the state where the humid climate is particularly suited to supporting lime trees. Unlike avocados or mangoes, limes provided year-round work for people like Craig Wheeling, a former fruit-company executive who at that time was a young man, learning the ropes on his father’s lime farm.

“In 1960,” he says, “the only game in town was really the Florida-grown limes.”

As the industry grew, so did Americans’ appetite for limes. Immigrants flooded into the country from Latin America, lands where limes are more central to cuisine, and Americans developed a taste for the fruit. Today Americans consume nearly 10 times the amount of limes they did in 1980; as the population has grown from 226 million to 317 million, a half-pound of consumption per person each year has become three.

The first natural disaster struck in 1992. Hurricane Andrew, at the time the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, made landfall in Dade County and nearly wiped Homestead’s lime groves off the map. “The impact on lime trees was devastating,” Wheeling says. “The hurricane picked up the trees and blew out the fences and the irrigation risers, virtually destroying all the plantings of the industry.” The larger businesses with more resources replanted their trees, Wheeling says, and by 1999, “we had a fabulous year.” America’s lime industry was back, and Florida growers were printing a little American flag on each piece of fruit so consumers would know where they came from.

But during most of the 1990s, when Florida was rebuilding after the hurricane, people still wanted their margaritas and ceviche. “There was a vacuum,” says Jonathan Crane, tropical-fruit-crop specialist at the University of Florida. “Mexico stepped up their production to take advantage of the U.S. being out of the market.” As Homestead slowly regrew its groves, a Mexican industry, built on much cheaper labor and land around Veracruz, became established, with trees planted specifically for exporting their goods to the U.S.

Wheeling, who had become president at the country’s biggest lime producer, still remembers seeing the next disaster hit, a quieter one but equally deadly for the industry. A disease called citrus canker appeared on a tree in the middle of the lime groves of his company, Brooks Tropicals, in 2000. At the time, Crane says, “the dogma” was that citrus canker would weaken trees to the point where they would die. The much more powerful citrus industry to the north, producing Florida’s famous oranges and grapefruit, was worried that the disease would spread to its crops, and so was the government. Because citrus canker spreads by wind and rain, an eradication program was established in 1996 to destroy all the citrus trees planted anywhere near an infected one. “The state of Florida agriculture department would order them destroyed, send in bulldozers, pile up the trees and burn them,” Wheeling says. By 2007 the industry had been wiped out again.

This time, Crane says, there was a prohibition on replanting citrus in the area for years, for fear that new trees would also get infected. Farmers turned to other crops, like avocados and vegetables. Wheeling says farmers feared a new disease would arrive, and the low costs of production in Mexico were impossible to beat. “You’re not going to get rich having your trees destroyed every 15 years or so,” he says. “Given all the risk, it was hard to justify going back in and growing them.” His business shifted to papayas, and imports from Mexico increased. Today the U.S. gets some 97% of its limes from Mexico, followed by Guatemala with a paltry 1.5%.

In other parts of the U.S., the climate isn’t as suited to supporting a lime industry, experts say, even in places where backyard growing is popular. Limes are the most “cold tender” of citrus trees, says David Karp, who has worked as a plant specialist of the University of California at Riverside. So in California, he says, “90% of the time you’d be fine, but if there’s one cold day, you lose your trees and crops die. If you’re a backyard grower, it’s no big deal.” Currently there are about 400 acres dedicated to lime-growing in the state, enough to support some local farmers’ markets; by contrast, 41,000 acres of California land are dedicated to lemons. And importing limes from Hawaii isn’t worth the cost, Karp says, especially when Mexico is so close by.

The most tragic part of the Florida story may be that citrus canker wasn’t actually as harmful to lime trees as scientists thought at the time. Crane is currently helping Florida growers experiment with new plantings, having published a paper earlier this year suggesting it would be profitable to produce limes in southern Florida again, partly because of their resistance to disease. “There’s a tiny bit of lime out there,” he says. It may resurge. In the meantime, the U.S. will be beholden to other countries for wheels and wedges.

TIME Companies

General Mills Reverses Legal Terms After Controversy

General Mills Headquarters Ahead Of Earnings Figures
General Mills world headquarters in Golden Valley, MN, March 15, 2014. Ariana Lindquist—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The food giant reversed itself regarding widely criticized new legal terms on its website that some said could prevent customers from suing the company over downloading coupons, joining its online communities or interacting with the company

General Mills announced it was removing controversial legal terms from its website on Saturday following an uproar over the changes.

“Because our concerns and intentions were widely misunderstood, causing concerns among our consumers, we’ve decided to change them back to what they were,” company spokesman Mike Siemienas wrote in an email obtained by the New York Times.

The New York Times reported last week that General Mills had added new legal terms to its website that could force customers to surrender their right to sue the company if they downloaded coupons, joined its “online communities” or interacted with the company in a variety of other ways. Instead, the Times said, customers would have to submit complaints through arbitration or “informal negotiation.”

The company later clarified that “online communities” did not include its Facebook or Twitter profiles.

The surprising reversal follows criticism from both consumers and legal experts, who questioned the breadth and enforceability of such terms.

TIME housing

10 Cities Where Americans Are Pretty Much Terrified to Live

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According to Gallup, 70.5% of Americans surveyed in 2012 and 2013 said they felt safe walking alone at night. This is effectively unchanged from 2011, when 71% of respondents said they felt safe.

In a number of metro areas, however, far fewer residents felt safe at night. In McAllen, Texas, where Americans were least likely to feel safe, less than half of all respondents were comfortable outside of their homes after dark. Based on data gathered by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, these are the 10 cities where Americans felt the least safe.

Seven of the 10 metro areas in which residents felt the least safe had violent crime rates above the nationwide rate of 386.9 incidents per 100,000 people in 2012. In the Memphis, Tenn., area, there were 1,056.8 violent crimes per 100,000 people, the most of any metro area in the country. Stockton, Calif., also had one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation, with 889.3 incidents per 100,000 residents.

But not all metro areas where residents felt unsafe had high violent crime rates. In two metro areas, McAllen and Yakima, Wash., there were just 319 and 349 violent incidents, respectively, for every 100,000 residents in 2012. In both cases, this was below the national rate.

Click here to see the cities where Americans don’t feel safe

24/7 Wall St. discussed the issue with John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington, D.C. “A fact of modern life [is] that people are bombarded with negative stories about crime,” Roman said. People “develop the perception that where they live, or wherever they like to go, isn’t safe.”

While concerns about safety may be somewhat misplaced in some areas, in others, such “perceptions of feeling unsafe are right on,” Roman added. In those areas, residents may feel unsafe because crime is underreported. In immigrant communities, because “people who are victimized are afraid to come forward and report it, there’s a hidden number of crime,” Roman explained.

However, in bigger cities, like Washington, D.C., New York and Dallas, “immigrant populations are thriving because they can do business with the local governments in Spanish. Those cities that are attracting a lot of first and second generation immigrants have really much lower crime rates than you’d expect,” said Roman.

Residents of areas who are less likely to feel safe tended to also struggle to afford adequate shelter. According to Gallup, the relationship between the concerns for personal safety and being able to afford housing is not coincidental. “The factors that contribute to both of these problems are often rooted in socioeconomic status and are likely traced back to poverty and the discontent that comes with it,” Gallup noted.

In fact, these areas also suffered from high poverty rates. Each of the 10 had a poverty rate greater than the national rate in 2012. In Fresno, Calif., and McAllen, 28.4% and 34.5% of the population lived below the poverty line that year. Both were among the highest rates for any metro area in the country.

However, Roman noted that the state of the local economy is often “less related than you might think it might be” to perceptions of safety. Instead, perceptions of where an area is heading might be more important. Certain parts of the country that are improving “might be poorer than average, but there’s a sense of optimism, there’s a sense of development,” he explained.

MORE: Ten Cities Where Young People Can’t Find Work

Not surprisingly, residents in these areas also reported being unhappy with where they lived. Across the United States, 85% of residents told Gallup they felt satisfied with where they lived. In nine of the 10 metro areas where residents felt least safe, residents had lower satisfaction rates. In Stockton, just 73.3% of people surveyed were satisfied with the area, the second lowest rate in the country.

To determine the 10 metro areas where people felt most unsafe walking alone at night, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. Responses were collected for the index over 2012 and 2013. To determine how recorded crime rates actually aligned with citizens’ opinions of these areas, we considered figures published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2012. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 2013 and are seasonally adjusted. Other figures such as poverty rates, education and income are from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey. Population figures are from 2012 as well.

These are the cities where Americans don’t feel safe.

5. Modesto, Calif.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 54.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 14.2%% (10th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 549.4 per 100,000 (48th highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.3% (64th highest)
> Population: 523,330 (124th highest)

With relatively high crime rates, Modesto residents are not likely to feel completely at ease walking alone at night. Motor vehicle theft was particularly bad in the area, with more than 780 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2012, second worst nationwide. Like many metro areas where people feel unsafe, Modesto’s economy has been strained in recent years. The unemployment rate was an abysmal 12.3% at the end of last year, among the highest rates nationwide. More than one in five residents lived in poverty in 2012, also among the highest rates in the nation. More than 14% of respondents said they had enough money for shelter at all times in the past 12 months, among the worst rates in the country.

4. Columbus, Ga.-Ala.

> Pct. feel safe at night: 54.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 14.8% (7th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 437.4 per 100,000 (99th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (102nd highest)
> Population: 304,291 (182nd highest)

Like in many of the cities in which people do not feel safe, 14.8% of Columbus residents said that they did not have enough money for adequate shelter within the past year, among the 10 worst rates in the country. A high percentage of people in the area struggled economically. The area’s median household income was less than $43,000 in 2012, versus more than $51,000 nationwide. Additionally, the area had one of the nation’s highest portions of residents on food stamps, at 20.6% that year. The region also had 166.3 robberies per 100,000 people in 2012, among the highest rates in the nation, and 4,778.6 property crimes per 100,000 people, worse than all but just five other metro areas in the country.

3. Stockton, Calif.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 52.2%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 12.5% (tied for 34th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 889.3 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.4% (108th highest)
> Population: 702,670 (97th highest)

Stockton had 889 incidents of violent crime for every 100,000 residents in 2012, higher than all but a handful of metro areas nationwide. That year, there were 89 murders, or 12.7 per 100,000 residents, among the highest rates in the nation. Cases of aggravated assault and robbery were also extremely frequent. Violent crime was such a problem in Stockton that year that the city’s police declared a policy of immediately dispatching officers only in cases of violent crimes and crimes in progress. The city of Stockton, which is currently working on plans to exit from bankruptcy, has lost police officers in recent years due to a combination of layoffs and retirements. At the end of 2013, 12% of the area’s workforce was unemployed. While this was down from 16% two years before, it was still among the worst unemployment rates in the nation.

2. Yakima, Wash.
> Pct. feel safe at night: 51.3%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 12.5% (tied for 34th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 349.4 per 100,000 (172nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 23.1% (29th highest)
> Population: 249,564 (178th lowest)

While Yakima residents often felt unsafe walking home alone at night, the area’s violent crime rate was actually lower than the national rate. Property crime, however, remains a problem. Despite Yakima County’s Crimestoppers grassroots organization, which encourages citizens to report crimes, the area had 1,217.7 burglaries per 100,000 people in 2012, and 673.2 car thefts per 100,000 people, both among the highest rates in the country. Like most metro areas in which residents do not feel safe walking alone at night, Yakima is struggling economically. Nearly one-quarter of the area’s residents had to rely on food stamps for at least part of 2012, and 23.1% of residents lived in poverty in 2012 — both among the worst rates in the country.

MORE: America’s Most Miserable Cities

1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
> Pct. feel safe at night: 48.5%
> Pct. without money for shelter: 24.5% (the highest)
> Violent crime rate: 319.2 per 100,000 (160th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 34.5% (2nd highest)
> Population: 809,759 (90th highest)

McAllen was the only metro area in which less than half of all respondents felt safe walking home alone at night. This was despite the fact that McAllen actually had a lower violent crime rate than the United States overall in 2012, at just 319 incidents per 100,000 residents, versus 387 crimes for 100,000 residents nationally. However, violence along the border with Mexico remains a concern for many McAllen residents. The State Department warns against traveling to the neighboring city of Reynosa, Mexico, due to high levels of drug-related violence. Additionally, nearly 25% of residents stated they did not have enough money for adequate shelter at some point in the previous year, by far the most of any metro area. A lack of adequate shelter may be tied to the relatively low economic prosperity in the region. In 2012, 34.5% of residents lived below the poverty line, and the median household income was just $33,761, both among the worst in the nation.

Visit 24/7 Wall St. to see the remaining five cities where Americans don’t feel safe.

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TIME Design

Take a Look at Jane Austen, Roald Dahl, and Albert Einstein’s Stunning Business Cards

MOO

What would some of the world’s most famous writers, thinkers, and politicians’ stationary look like if they were alive today? Online printing company MOO has an answer—sort of. The firm has designed a collection of modern letterheads and business cardsfor the likes of Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others. For more, check them all out here.

MOO
MOO
MOO
TIME Advertising

If You Have a Heart, This Puppy Ad Will Completely Melt It

American spending on pets reached a record $55.7 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. “If the pet industry were tracked by the U.S. government as a single entity, we’d be the seventh largest retail segment in the country,” Bob Vetere, CEO of the industry group told TIME recently. All that spending has been a boon to pet-food marketers willing to capitalize on the Web’s obsession with animals. Now Pedigree New Zealand is trying to use puppies and YouTube’s revenue-sharing model to raise money for dog charity—and drive views. Apparently, this involves watching uber-cute dachshunds eating hot dogs.

TIME Careers & Workplace

17 Things Extremely Happy People Say Every Day

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Are you as happy as you wish you were? If not, try saying a few of these simple, inspiring things to other people


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

There’s an easy-to-articulate, hard-to-implement best practice when it comes to how to teach yourself to be happy. It stems from the recognition that the positive things you do for other people often reverberate back to create positivity in your own life. In effect, doing little things to make other people happy can greatly improve your happiness.

Make sense? There are two theories at work. The first is that focusing on others creates joy of its own accord. The second is that as you succeed in improving others’ happiness, you’ll wind up with happier, more grateful people around you. They’ll find you likable and charismatic, which in turn can lead them to treat you in a manner that produces even more happiness.

It’s easier said than done, but fortunately, there’s a compelling shortcut. Your words are among your greatest tools, so you can have an outsize effect on others simply by thinking about what you say every day and making an effort to be both positive and sincere. There are certain inspiring things that truly happy people find themselves saying to others all the time. Try making an effort to say a few of these every day for a week. You’ll be amazed at how the positivity you create improves your happiness.

1. “I’m happy to see you.”

This is the most basic and attractive sentiment you can express to another human being–that simply being in the person’s presence creates a positive feeling. Whether you’re telling an employee that you need his skills, that you value his opinions, or just that you think he’s good company, you’ve begun an interaction on a very high note. How can that not produce some level of happiness in the other person?

2. “I’m always happy to see you.”

Take the previous remark a step further. This is the opposite of most relationship advice–that you should never take a specific negative action and suggest that it’s indicative of someone’s entire way of acting. Well, turn that on its head, by expressing that it’s not just this interaction that has produced positive feelings but basically all interactions with this person. It’s an amazingly gratifying thing to hear.

3. “Remember when you…”

Surprise someone by bringing up a positive thing that she did in the past, and you’re almost guaranteed to induce a positive response. Maybe it’s a joke the person told that you’re still laughing about; maybe it’s a small act of heroism she performed. Regardless, if it’s something she thought was long forgotten, learning that something she did made a positive, lasting impression on someone else is an amazing experience.

4. “You might not realize this, but…”

This an even more potent version of the previous suggestion, provided you finish the sentence with a description of how the person’s actions led to a positive outcome. It’s one thing to learn that other people recognize the favorable things you’ve done; it’s another thing entirely to learn that you’re having a positive effect on other people without even realizing it.

5. “You really impress me.”

This is similar to “I’m happy to see you” and “I’m always happy to see you,” except that it focuses on things that the person does, rather than his or her existential being. Other variations include “You are really great at…” or “People love that you…” Simply be sincere and specific. “You’re really great at calming stressful situations” or “People love that you always have the best music.” It can be anything, as long as it’s authentic and truly positive, and it’s guaranteed to elicit positive reactions.

6. “You really impressed me when…”

Focusing on specific actions or events can be even more powerful. It means that you’re not only thinking abstractly but offering proof that things the other person does provoke positive reactions. It’s the difference between saying that a comedian was really funny and quoting one of his or her best jokes. (Other versions: “You handled that well when you turned that client’s objection into an opportunity” or “It was really cool to see how you parallel-parked that car into that tiny spot.”)

7. “I believe in you.”

People have self-doubts. You do, I do, we all do. (Heck, every time I write a column here–and this is number 167, by the way–I wonder how people will react.) When others simply say they believe in you, however, it becomes easier to believe in yourself.

Here’s an analogy. Have you ever gotten into lifting weights, or simply watched people do it? It’s amazing how the slightest bit of assistance from a spotter–with force equal to the weight of a pencil–can help someone lift far more weight than he could on his own. It’s the same concept here–just that small expression of confidence can push people to achieve more–and then to be thankful for the help.

8. “Look how far you’ve come!”

It is so important to celebrate achievements. This doesn’t mean you have to throw a party, but even acknowledging that someone’s efforts have achieved results can be extremely gratifying for the person.

Of course, heck, if you want to take things to the extreme, throw a party. Just be sure that you’re the one buying the first round and singing the loudest.

9. “I know you’re capable of more.”

Everyone needs to be pushed at times, especially when we fall short. If you care about people, you’re going to be called on sometimes to be a bit of a coach, or maybe to employ a bit of tough love. Even the most steadfast and confident among us sometimes need a friend to guide them to a better way of acting.

The late, great NFL coach Vince Lombardi put this best: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Nobody does anything great alone, so be the one standing by to help, and you’ll inspire positivity and gratitude.

10. “I’d like to hear your thoughts about…”

Everyone likes to think that his or her opinions matter, and of course they do–sometimes. However, this kind of invitation to share what someone thinks can’t help making the person feel just a tiny bit more self-worth, which in turns creates both happiness and positive feelings toward you. Just be sure to be sincere; don’t just say this for the sake of saying it. Make sure that you are truly interested in whatever subject you’re asking about and listen actively.

11. “Tell me more.”

This is the best follow-up to the last item. It tells the other person that you’re listening, and that you find value in what he or she is saying. The actor and writer Peter Ustinov once said that the greatest compliment he ever received took place when he was afraid he had gone on too long in a conversation with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, only to have her tell him, “Please continue.”

12. “I took your suggestion.”

OK, it’s almost too easy at this point. Combine asking someone’s opinion and demonstrating that the person has had impact on your life and you’ve provided him with two of the most gratifying, basic experiences of the human condition.

It doesn’t matter really whether you tried a new restaurant on the other person’s advice, followed his suggestion on how to begin an important conversation, or started getting up 15 minutes earlier for a week because he said it was a good idea. Simply being listened to and having impact makes people feel better. Bonus points if his suggestion created a positive result, but you’ll get credit regardless. (Related: “You were right.”)

13. “I’m sorry.”

Say this when you mean it–when you’ve done something worth expressing regret for or the other person deserves sympathy. However, don’t water it down by using it when you don’t mean it. In fact, one writer made a compelling argument recently that the phrase is so overused that it ought to be retired. That would be a shame, but it underscores how people appreciate this phrase when it’s sincere, and how it annoys them when it isn’t.

14. “I’d like to be more like you.”

Now you’ve got it–you’re expressing positivity toward other people almost naturally, pointing out not only things that they do well but maybe even things they do better than you do.

If you want to see a sentiment similar to this work very effectively, watch the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets. Or else, just read this short bit of dialogue in which Jack Nicholson’s character offers Helen Hunt’s character the ultimate compliment: “You make me want to be a better man.

15. “Thank you.”

It’s not that much of a stretch to suggest that every other item on this list is in fact a form of “thank you.” This is truly one of the most powerful, underrated phrases in the English language. It packs a heck of a punch, encompassing positivity and impact in two little syllables. (By the way, thanks for reading this far into this column. Maybe if you share it with others, they’ll thank you, too.)

16. “You’re welcome.”

Not “yep.” Not “no problem” or “no worries.” Say “You’re welcome.”

Instead of deflecting another person’s thanks, as some of these other phrases do, saying “you’re welcome” dignifies the person’s gratitude. It acknowledges that yes, you did do something worthy, or nice, or positive for someone–because you believe that she’s worth it.

17. “No.”

There’s one small risk in this entire mode of expression, and this word is your fail-safe. The danger is that sometimes people who make other people’s happiness their priority can wind up doing so at the cost of their own happiness. We all know some people who take advantage, or who simply aren’t going to be happy no matter what your efforts amount to.

Two little letters, and yet they can be so powerful. Most important, they demonstrate that you care for yourself, which is a key prerequisite to caring truly for other people. Carry this one in your back pocket; use it when necessary. You’ll find that the most positive and happy people you interact with respect you for doing so–and that can make you happy, too.

More from Inc.com:

12 Simple Tricks For Saving Time on Email

3 Beliefs of Highly Successful People

5 Things Anyone Can Do to Be More Self-Confident

TIME Autos

This Is What’s Going to Replace Your Boring Old Sedan

2015 Chevrolet Trax
2015 Chevrolet Trax Chevrolet

A new automotive segment is being hatched this Easter Week at the New York International Auto Show—the small SUV. Three new models aimed directly at millennials made their debuts: Chevrolet’s Trax, Jeep’s Renegade and Honda’s HR-V. “The small SUV is truly becoming the next big thing in the global auto market,” says Alan Bately, GM’s CEO for North America. Worldwide, the car manufacturers expect small SUVs to generate two million units in sales in 2015.

That’s more than enough sales to attract the likes of Fiat-Chrysler’s Jeep division, which unwrapped a gorgeous little Renegade. It’s the latest effort by the company to extend the Jeep brand, one of the hottest performers in the company, on a global scale. The Renegade has a passport, too. It was designed in Auburn Hills, MI. But the car will be manufactured in Fiat’s plant in Southern Italy, to take advantage of the company’s small car manufacturing skill as well as the available capacity.

Honda is adding the HR-V to its small vehicle lineup for a winter launch. It’s built on the same platform as the subcompact Fit.

The attraction of small SUVs, say manufacturers, is the combination of urban maneuverability, versatility, and improved fuel economy. “People are moving to smaller SUs because they like the SUV attributes like higher chair height for better command view of the road. They like the versatility between passengers and cargo,” says Jim Brown, Chevy’s product manager for small cars.

Named for a 2007 concept vehicle, the Trax was launched in late 2012 in Mexico and Canada as a 2013 model. About 90,000 have been sold in more than 60 global markets. In addition to the U.S., the 2015 Trax will also go on sale in China, adding the small SUV to Chevy’s two largest markets. Made in Korea, it will be in showrooms this December and likely cost in the mid $20,000s.

The development of the small SUV segment also demonstrates that millennials have entirely different criteria for purchasing cars than their parents did at the same age. To them, a small SUV is an all wheel drive iPad with room for their friends and their stuff. “A generation ago maybe there was more emphasis on horsepower, performance, those type of things,” says Cristi Landy, Chevy’s senior manager of strategy for small cars. “Now the most sacred possession for a lot of these people is their smartphone, so we’ve been able to integrate that technology into the vehicle very seamless fashion.”

The Trax will be available Siri Eyes Free, a 7-in.-diagonal color touch screen and additional USB ports. OnStar 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot will allow passengers to connect multiple devices. And the driver can navigate with downloaded apps such as BrinGo, which will keep the cost of options down. Embedded music apps will include Pandora, Stitcher, and TunedIn. It will also have an engine, no doubt.

At Jeep, the new Renegade comes in urban and rural flavors, Latitude and Trailhawk, with a couple of powertrain and 4×4 options that can suit a variety of drivers, “whether it’s rigorous off-roading or just some social climbing in the city,” notes Jeep CEO Mike Manley. The 9-speed automatic transmission claims more than 30 mpg. Hewing to its off-road heritage, though, Renegade offers two “intelligent” 4×4 systems—Active Drive and Active Drive Low in the Trail Hawk version. The former allows seamless transfers between 2- and 4-wheel drive; the later is designed for ultra off-road travelers.

“Make no mistake, Renegade is pure Jeep,” Manley says, pointing out details such as the rounded headlamps and the seven-slot grill. The Renegade may have been conceived in America, but this Jeep also shows its Italian refinement. The design of the upper part of the SUV just screams Fiat. The curve of the windows, tilting toward the rear, the interior styling and the wide environmental view from inside all take cues from Renegade’s Italian in-laws, the Fiat Panda and 500.

Honda’s HR-V lacks any Continental legacy, nor can it claim much in the way of off-road chops. Then again that’s not what you’d expect from a Japanese utility vehicle. Instead, Honda is making a play for urban cool. The company says the HR-V will feature Honda’s Magic Seat, which morphs quickly into multiple configurations and allows the second row seat to go flat for added cargo space. It will be a complement to the Fit and a competitor to crossovers such as Nissan’s Juke and Kia’s Soul.

The manufacturers expect sales of small SUVs in the U.S. to increase 87% over the next three years, which is one reason they are rushing them to market. More importantly, these are vehicles perfectly suited to first time buyers. Get them now, goes the strategy, and you have a good shot at keeping them for decades.

TIME

LeBron James Is Lovin’ McDonald’s — in China

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat
LeBron James during a game at American Airlines Arena in Miami, March 12, 2014. Mike Ehrmann—Getty Images

The Miami Heat forward is taking center court in McDonald's plan to retool its strategy in the world's second-largest economy, where burgers have lost sales to noodles

China, meet McDonald’s new cultural emissary. LeBron James, meet China.

The fast food empire will feature the NBA star in its China-focused commercials later this year, using LeBron as a gambit to boost its sales by satisfying the Chinese love of American basketball.

McDonald’s new ad move is part of drive to lure more Chinese sales, the Wall Street Journal reports, where the company is redoing its China-based stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and overhauling its advertising campaign.

The moves come even as growth in China appears to be slowing, with overall economic growth in the country at 7.4% in the first quarter, its lowest level in 18 months.

Last year, China’s sales slowed 3.6% compared with 2012, as many of McDonald’s customers in China eat at cheaper local restaurants and noodle joints instead.

[WSJ]

 

TIME Food and Beverage Industry

Big Comeback Planned for the All-American Drive-in Burger Joint

Wendy's hamburger has become more popular than McDonald's.
Paul Vernon / AP

The once-ubiquitous drive-in restaurant–you know, the kind with rollerskating waitresses–will be seen again very soon in all parts of the country, even in states where you wouldn’t want to eat outside for much of the year.

Sonic, the old-fashioned burger-and-shake chain known as “America’s Drive-in,” grew steadily in the early years of the new century. The company hit the 2,000-location market in 1999, and promptly leaped up to 3,000 drive-in locations by 2005. By late 2008, the 3,500th Sonic location opened in the U.S.

However, that’s where the expansion leveled off. Here we are, six years later, and the Sonic website lists the number of locations as simply “more than 3,500.”

It’s understandable that Sonic’s growth might slow substantially of late. The company’s franchise expansion stalled around the time of the Great Recession, when business slowed across a wide range of industries. Over the past five years or so, fast food lunch and dinner sales totals have generally plateaued, and a perception has taken hold that perhaps we’re reaching the point when American consumers just can’t handle any more fast food burger joints.

What’s more, Sonic stands out in the crowded field due to its drive-in feature, in which customers pull up into parking spots in their cars, place their order, and wait for one of the restaurant’s old-fashioned “carhop” staffers to delivery the food. It’s a charming custom, but the charm wears off when, say, it’s 20 degrees and there’s 18 inches of snow on the ground.

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World, explained recently to Marketplace. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

So another reason that Sonic’s growth slowed is that it was running out of warm-weather spots to open up more franchises. The company is based in Oklahoma, and its restaurants have traditionally been concentrated there and in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and throughout the South—pretty much everywhere that spring starts early and the chill of fall sets in late.

Nonetheless, Sonic just announced huge plans for growth, with expansion in the U.S. expected to reach roughly the same pace it reached in the early ’00s. The numbers thrown around by Sonic are bold, and nice and round: 1,000 new locations over the next 10 years.

In light of the company’s already heavy presence in the South, how will Sonic do it? First, it’s targeting states with mild climates that don’t already have an abundance of Sonics, namely California. Over the next six years, the goal is to open 15 Sonics in southern California, specifically in greater Los Angeles and San Diego County, and another 15 elsewhere in California. By 2020, Sonic expects to have a total of 300 drive-in locations in the state.

Second, and most interestingly, Sonic isn’t shying away from cold-weather locations. Last summer, Sonic opened in its 44th state, an unlikely one for a drive-in chain: North Dakota.

What makes Sonic’s expansion to North Dakota and other spots with short summers feasible is the introduction of a new restaurant design prototype that features drive-in stalls and outdoor seating that most Sonics, but that also includes a decent-sized area for indoor seating—making the idea of eating at Sonic in January in North Dakota or upstate New York seem not totally nuts. “With locations up north, we had to think creatively about how to develop a location that works with inclement weather while still matching the iconic SONIC Drive-In look,” Bob Franke, Sonic senior vice president of franchise sales and international development, said in a press release for the opening of the North Dakota location. “The result is a new SONIC Drive-In prototype that gives our guests many options during their visit that won’t be disrupted by a little snow.”

The result for diners is that even if they live in an area of the country where drive-in dining wouldn’t be comfortable for the majority of the year, they’ll be fairly likely to see a Sonic pop up in their neck of the woods in the near future. “The Northern states are ripe with expansion opportunities for Sonic, given the brand’s relatively small footprint in the area combined with high customer awareness and pent-up demand,” Franke said earlier this year. Over the next handful of years, 13 new Sonics are planned in the vicinity of Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., and by 2018 another 14 should open in the greater Seattle area.

TIME Music Industry

Record Labels Suing Pandora Over Oldies

Major labels say Pandora is violating their copyrights to a slew of pre-1972 oldies like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. While federal copyright laws don't protect the older tunes, record labels argue that the music is protected by some states

Sony, Warner and several other major record labels are suing Pandora for copyright infringement, accusing the Internet radio mogul of playing pre-1972 songs by artists like Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones without licenses.

The record companies argue that while the pre-1972 songs Pandora plays aren’t covered by federal copyright protection, they are protected by common law in states like New York, where the case was filed Thursday, the New York Times reports. The labels control the rights to a litany of major artists like the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, James Brown and others.

The record labels claim that Pandora is unjustly profiting from their artists, denying them tens of millions of dollars each year from Pandora and other streaming services.

“This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown,” the labels say in the suit.

María Elena Holly, the widow of Buddy Holly, said in a statement: “Just because Buddy and the other ’50s musicians recorded songs before 1972 doesn’t mean their songs have no value. These companies’ failure to pay the rock ’n’ roll pioneers is an injustice and it needs to change.”

Pandora plays songs according to user-preferred categories like “Motown” or “60s Oldies.” The company said it was confident in its legal position.

[NYT]

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