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Consumer Confidential: Holiday driving plans, Mickey D's marketing, more Volts

May 19, 2011 | 10:19 am

Ronaldpic Here's your I'm-looking-through-you Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- High gas prices won't deter us from taking to the roads this Memorial Day weekend. AAA projects 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, up 0.2% from last year. Most Americans -- 30.9 million -- will travel during the weekend by car. The average price for regular gasoline nationally is $3.91, up from $2.85 last year. Six out of 10 drivers say rising gasoline prices wouldn't affect their travel plans, according to AAA. Of the remaining four out of 10 who say rising gas prices would affect their plans, 70% said they would economize in other areas and the rest said they would take a shorter trip or travel by other means.

-- Ronald McDonald won't be deterred from marketing to kids. McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner said it's up to parents to decide what to feed their kids. The fast-food giant came under fire Wednesday when a watchdog group placed ads in papers across the country calling on the company to stop marketing to kids and to retire its longtime mascot, Ronald McDonald. The ads featured a letter signed by more than 600 health professionals and organizations. In response, Skinner told shareholders that "Ronald McDonald is an ambassador for McDonald's and he is an ambassador for good. He is the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities. He does not advertise unhealthy food to children. McDonald's does not advertise unhealthy food to children." He said he has received overwhelming support from parents and others who urged him to defend McDonald's marketing. Sure.

-- General Motors is all charged up about its Volt electric car. The company is significantly increasing capacity at the plant that makes the vehicle so it can produce up to 60,000 electric cars a year.
The Detroit-area factory now can produce about 16,000 of the cars every year. For potential buyers, that will mean the Chevy Volt will be in short supply for the next three months due to a monthlong shutdown to retool the plant. The Volt hit the U.S. market late last year and just over 1,700 have been sold through April.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: McDonald's says it will keep marketing to kids. Credit: McDonalds Corp.