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Economy Briefs: Subaru recalls nearly 634,000 cars, SUVs

- - Thursday, January 3, 2013

DETROIT — Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because lights beneath the doors can overheat and catch fire.

The recall affects all Outback and Legacy cars from model years 2010 and 2011. Also included are Tribeca SUVs from 2006 through 2012 and Forester SUVs from 2009 through 2012. Subaru says the Tribecas and Foresters were sold before January 2012.

The company says moisture can get into puddle lights beneath the doors and cause a short circuit that can melt plastic and cause fires. It says only 54,000 of the vehicles are equipped with the lights and will need to be repaired. But it will send letters to all owners asking them to take their cars to dealers if they have the lights.

AUTOS

Better economy spurs auto sales to 5-year high

DETROIT — A steadily improving economy and strong December sales lifted the American auto industry to its best performance in five years in 2012, especially for Volkswagen and Japanese vehicles, and some say the next year should be even better.

Manufacturers on Thursday announced their final figures, which were expected to total 14.5 million — 13 percent better than 2011.

Americans had plenty of incentive to buy new cars and trucks in the year just ended. Unemployment eased. Home sales and prices rose. And the average age of a car topped 11 years in the U.S., a record that spurred people to trade in old vehicles. Banks have been offering low interest rates and greater access to loans, even for bad credit risks.

FOOD

Lunch meat maker Hormel adds Skippy to stable

NEW YORK — Hormel Foods apparently has a hankering for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. The company primarily known for Spam and other cured, smoked and deli meats said Thursday that it is buying Skippy, the country's No. 2 peanut butter brand, from its Anglo-Dutch owner in the biggest acquisition in Hormel's history.

Skippy, which was introduced in 1932 and is a staple in American pantries, is intended to increase Hormel's presence in the center of the supermarket where nonperishable foods are sold. It also gives the Austin, Minn.-based company a stronger footing in international markets. Skippy is sold in about 30 countries and is the leading peanut butter brand in China, where Hormel has been trying to build up its Spam business for the past several years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports