MIKE ARMSTRONG: Coming up: Call it the consequences of high gas prices. More drivers are running their tanks dry, and here’s a Hummer of a story: GM is closing some truck and SUV plants. Another sign of weakness in housing. After its third straight quarterly loss, Toll Brothers may not be crying uncle, but its CEO is calling on Congress to help. A European invasion of Philadelphia? The city says “The visitors are coming! The visitors are coming!” Philadelphia Business Today starts now.

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MIKE ARMSTRONG:    File this one under Boy How Times Have Changed. Drivers in Philadelphia are running out of gas, and so is GM’s Hummer, a massive SUV that was the King of the Road just a few years ago. The villain? Expensive gasoline. A record number of drivers in the region called AAA last month for roadside assistance: They’d run out of gas while driving. The number of gas-related calls from stranded drivers was up 126% from a year ago. And today, General Motors announced its shutting down four truck and SUV plants. In Wilmington, CEO Rick Wagoner said GM may sell or revamp its Hummer, which was a smash when it hit the road during the era of cheap gas.

You want the good news on Toll Brothers first, or the bad news? Well the good news is, that Toll Brothers beat analyst expectations for its second quarter financial results. The bad news is, the Horsham home builder lost money for the third straight quarter. Its revenue fell 30%, and its backlog is down 50% from this time last year. Toll Brothers lost $94 million or 59 cents per share thanks to write downs of $288 million on the value of land. As the pain of the nation’s housing market continues, CEO Robert Toll again called on Congress to do something. He favors a tax incentive for buyers of new homes; that would stop the downward spiral of home prices, Toll said.

Philadelphia, are we finally fabulous, or just cheap? Tourism officials say Philadelphia is now the twelfth most popular destination for overseas travelers. Most of those travelers are from , and . The Federal Commerce Department said 550,000 travelers indicated they were going to Philadelphia in 2007. That’s over 100,000 more than we saw here in 2006. What’s behind the surge? Sure we’re a great city, but with the dollar falling against the Euro, the city’s tourism officials have been targeting European countries—in other words, we’re a bargain.

That’s it for today. At the Inquirer, I’m Mike Armstrong for Philadelphia Business Today.


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