Business Tidbits

Toyota Recalls 1.29 Million Vehicles for Air Bags, Wipers

TOKYO (AP) – Toyota is recalling over one million cars around the world for faulty air bags and defective windshield wipers.

The move comes just days after Toyota regained its spot as the world’s No. 1 automaker from U.S. rival General Motors Co. The company is now recalling 907,000 cars, mostly Corollas, due to air bags that can improperly inflate when the vehicle’s electronic signals damage a chip in the part that controls the bags. It also is recalling 385,000 Lexus IS luxury cars with wipers that can get stuck in heavy snowfall.

Initially, the Japanese automaker had said there were no accidents related to either problem, but Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Naoto Fuse said yesterday that two crashes were reported in the U.S.

Toyota has confirmed 18 cases in the U.S. of abrasion-type injuries from the air bag problem, he said. In total, the automaker has received 46 reports of problems involving the air bags from North America, and one from Japan, and 25 reports of problems related to the windshield wipers.

Minn. High Court Say Online Post Legally Protected

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool,” slang for foolish, is protected speech, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The state’s highest court dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on rate-your-doctor websites.

The opinion, written by Justice Alan Page, said the comments posted by Dennis Laurion are not defamation because of free speech protections.

“Referring to someone as ‘a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term ‘real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false,” he wrote.

U.S. Economy Shrinks 0.1 Percent, 1st Time in 3½ Years

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank from October through December, the first quarterly drop since 2009, a reminder of the economy’s vulnerability as automatic cuts in government spending loom.

The Commerce Department said the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent mainly because companies restocked at a slower rate and the government slashed defense spending. Those trends partly reflected uncertainty late last year about the fiscal cliff, which Congress averted in a deal reached Jan. 1.

Economists say those factors could prove temporary, and the likelihood of another recession appears remote. Still, the sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent annual growth rate in the July-September quarter, also driven by a drop in U.S. exports, raised concerns about 2013.

Fed Says Growth Pause Temporary, Keeps Up Stimulus

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve said yesterday that the U.S. economy “paused” in recent months because of temporary factors and reaffirmed its commitment to try to stimulate growth by keeping borrowing costs low for the foreseeable future.

The Fed took no new action at its two-day policy meeting. But it stood behind aggressive steps it launched in December to try to reduce unemployment, in a statement released after the meeting.

In December, the Fed said it would keep its key short-term interest rate at a record low at least until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent. Unemployment is currently 7.8 percent. And the Fed said it would keep buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to try to keep borrowing costs low and encourage spending.

Chrysler Now a Rising Star Among Automakers

DETROIT (AP) – In just three years, Chrysler has gone from government ward to rising star.

The No. 3 U.S. automaker made $1.7 billion last year thanks to big gains for its much-improved cars and trucks, and it’s expecting profits to reach $2.2 billion this year.

It’s a big improvement over 2011, when Chrysler earned $138 million. And it’s even more remarkable considering that Chrysler was in bankruptcy and living on taxpayer loans just three years ago.