Sonari Glinton

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk reporter based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising.

In this position, which he has held since late 2010, Glinton has tackled big stories including GM's road back to profitability and Toyota's continuing struggles. Glinton has traveled throughout the Midwest covering important stories such as the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, and the 2012 presidential race. He has also covered the U.S. Senate and House for NPR.

Glinton came to NPR in August 2007 and worked as a producer for All Things Considered. During that time he produced interviews with everyone from UN Ambassador Susan Rice to Joan Rivers. The highlight for Glinton came when he produced Robert Siegel's 50 Great Voices piece on Nat King Cole.

Glinton began his public radio career as an intern at member station WBEZ in Chicago. He went on to produce and report for WBEZ. While in Chicago he focused on juvenile justice and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Prior to journalism Glinton had a career in finance.

Glinton attended Boston University.

In drought-stricken California, golf is often seen as a bad guy — it can be hard to defend watering acres of grass for fun when residents are being ordered to cut their usage and farmers are draining their wells.

But golf is a $6 billion industry in the state and employs nearly 130,000 workers, according to the California Golf Course Owners Association. So while the greens are staying green, some golf courses are saving every drop of water they can.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Concept cars tell us much more about the current state of the auto industry than the future of it.

Showcasing the latest in styling and technology, concept cars have been virtually absent from auto shows for the past few years, but now they're back with a vengeance.

The concept cars at the Detroit auto show this year look pretty normal, but Bill Visnic of Edmunds.com says it wasn't that long ago that concept cars were just plain wack.

Sales of cars surged in December, and analysts believe that the year's total will exceed 17 million, making it the fifth straight year of growth for the industry.

Cheap gas prices helped make that happen, as sales of trucks, SUVs and luxury vehicles rose rapidly. Jeep's sales, for instance, were up 40 percent on increased consumer demand for crossover SUVs. Meanwhile, demand for hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles shrank.

Scott Painter, founder and CEO of auto sales website TrueCar, says those trends aren't necessarily good for the industry as a whole.

More than 60 million cars, trucks and SUVs have been recalled this year — nearly twice the previous record. That translates to nearly 1 out of every 4 cars on the road recalled for a safety-related defect.

But analysts say those recalls say more about the way the industry has restructured than about overall car safety.

The Internet is coming to your car. Later this year, General Motors will put Internet connectivity directly into its vehicles. It's the largest auto company to do so.

Of course, safety advocates have some concerns about more distractions for drivers.

The promise of technology is always the same one — that it's going to make our life easier. But anyone who's tried to make a hands-free call in the car knows that's not always true. A task as simple as asking your device to call your mom can be an exasperating experience.

During her grilling before Congress last week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra insisted the new General Motors is different and better than the old one.

So as GM begins to fix nearly 2.6 million vehicles for an ignition-switch defect that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, we decided to put that claim to the test.

Exactly how new is the new GM?

NBC's Saturday Night Live answered with a parody version of Barra's explanation:

The new head of General Motors, Mary Barra, goes to Capitol Hill Tuesday to begin two days of testimony.

It's the first time she'll be questioned about a safety defect that's been linked to at least 13 deaths and has sparked a 2.6 million-vehicle recall.

At issue for the Detroit CEO is a classic question: What did GM know about the problems with ignition switch problems in its cars, and when did the company know it?

And just as important for GM and government regulators is the follow-up question: Why did no one act sooner?

In the past week, Volkswagen recalled 150,000 Passats because of potential hood problems that could damage the headlights, and Honda recalled 900,000 Odyssey vans because of a potential fire hazard.

Those moves follow the recent General Motors recall of 1.6 million vehicles over a faulty ignition switch, which has been linked to 12 deaths. It took the company nearly a decade to inform the public of the problem.

General Motors is coming under mounting criticism for its handling of a serious defect. Last month, the company recalled 1.6 million vehicles because of faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. The cars, made from 2003-2007, could stall or fail to deploy their airbags.

It's an issue GM has known about for a while, and now Congress wants to know why it took the automaker almost a decade to warn the public about it.

The United States has threatened economic sanctions against Moscow, but America is light on financial leverage in Russia: The country represents less than 1 percent of U.S. trade, and few major U.S. companies have significant investments there.

But one company with a long history in Russia is Pepsi.

So how did the American soft drink giant get its foot in the door to build a major market in Russia?

It wouldn't be a Winter Olympics without a figure skating scandal, and the Sochi Olympics hasn't disappointed.

When defending gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea took to the ice in the women's long program Thursday night, there was much anticipation. The audience had already seen 23 great performances, and Kim was the last to skate.

She landed six triple jumps in what looked to be a flawless program, one she'd skated many times before. In the stands, her teammates and skaters from other countries seemed amazed.

If there is such a thing as a home rink advantage, that makes the competition in the women's figure skating program fierce. Russian fans erupted with glee for Adelina Sotnikova on Wednesday. And then there's Yulia Lipnitskaya, a 15-year-old Russian phenom who has thrilled Russian fans and stunned the figure skating world.

Scott Hamilton, a 1984 figure skating gold medalist, has been watching Lipnitskaya closely.

"She's beyond her years. Like, you look at her and she qualified [to be age-eligible] for the Olympics by days," he says.

In Sochi, balmy weather has bedeviled some snowboarders and skiers. The snow is sometimes, well, slush. But inside the Winter Olympics' arenas, the ice is universally praised, though it's taking some work to keep things cool.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity that's leading ice makers to work overtime at the games.

That's paid off, because athletes in Sochi have been gushing about the ice.

What's the hardest sport at the Winter Games — biathlon, aerial skiing, snowboarding, or high-flying slopestyle?

Jeremy Abbott thought it was one of those until an Olympic official told him otherwise. "Hands down," he was told, "absolutely, figure skating is the hardest."

Abbott may not completely agree, but he says it's the rare affirmation he's gotten as a male figure skater.

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