Explaining Southern California's economy

GM posts record 2011 profit, with most coming from toughest auto market

Matthew DeBord

Don't think cool cars can some in small packages? No so. The new Chevy Sonic is proof that General Motors can finally do a tiny ride that commands attention.

Good news today for General Motors: it generated its highest annual profit ever in 2011. That's $7.6 billion. And yes, you read that first sentence right: highest annual profit ever. Higher than when GM owned half the U.S. market. Higher than when it was the largest industrial concern on the planet.

This is remarkable for two reasons, one obvious, one not. First the obvious: three years ago, GM had to be bailed out by the taxpayer before entering bankruptcy. It was under fierce attack in North America from Toyota and others. The future looked, if not completely dim, then not exactly luminous.

Now the not-obvious. Most of GM's 2011 profit came from North America. Some analysts have pointed to this as a problem and highlighted GM's struggles with its main European division, Opel, which it decided to hold on to rather than sell, post-Chapter 11. (Other observers, notably Slate's Matt Yglesias, have complained that all the rah-rah around GM suggests that America is still too close to the auto-industrial business model that built the country in the 20th century.)

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How using mass-transit in Los Angeles can save you $12,000 a year

There's some buzz around LA about a U.S. Census report that shows Angelenos might not have the country's worst commutes. This is from the LA Times:

It took commuters in the L.A.-Long Beach-Santa Ana area an average of 28.1 minutes to get to work in 2010, ranking 17th nationally, according to data released Thursday from the American Community Survey's latest one-year estimate....Surprisingly, topping the list were areas with robust rail networks and transit systems such as New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, which ranked first and takes drivers an average of 34.6 minutes, and Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, which clocked in at 30.7 minutes and ranked fourth. The national average was 25.3."

That sounds counter-intuitive: How can regions with well-established mass-transit have longer commutes? Simple: subways and buses make more stops. 

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