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MARK RECHTIN

They're baaaaack... Four-buck gas has arrived in California

LOS ANGELES -- There has been much hemming and hawing about when high gas prices will return.

Well, they are here. Four dollars a gallon won't be a one-time thing.

Granted, the north-of-$4 prices are in the socialist republic of California, where gas taxes are one way to try to balance the budget, to the tune of 54 cents a gallon. And this was for higher-priced super unleaded gas. But many cars these days require super unleaded because of their complicated engine control and emissions systems.

So, to all the automakers proclaiming that they are working on fuel consumption technology, in anticipation of the return of high gas prices, it's time to speed up your efforts.

And to all your product planners who thought that cratering of big SUV and pickup sales a few years back was a blip on the radar, it's time to reconfigure your sales planning volumes.

We're just getting into March. Just imagine what Labor Day will bring. And this time, the price hikes may just be permanent.

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