Morning Business Memo:
Car sales are revving up. After a surge of 14 percent this year compared to 2011, Edmunds.com forecasts another gain for next year. Total car sales are likely to top 15 million. As with the improving housing market, accelerating car sales are being powered by low interest rates for consumer loans. Ford Motor Co. says today it will expand manufacturing plants in its home state of Michigan. The company plans to spend nearly $800 million and create thousands of jobs by 2015. A Ford vice president says the investments will support its aggressive growth plans.
Toyota has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit over unintended acceleration. The long case put a dent in Toyota's reputation for quality. The Japanese automaker has recalled more than 14 million cars and light trucks worldwide because of acceleration problems as well as brake defects in the Prius. Toyota is not admitting it was to blame for the problems and the lawsuit settlement is still subject to a federal judge's approval. "Toyota wants to put its 'unintended acceleration' recalls behind it once and for all," says Senior Analyst Jesse Toprak from TrueCar.com "As costly as it might be, this settlement will allow them to remove most of the lingering financial uncertainty."
More than a third of Americans will return holiday gifts. The FedEx poll also finds clothing is the most frequently returned gift followed by consumer electronics products and toys. If you're bringing stuff back, here's the first rule of returns: "It's important for consumers to remember that not all retailers return policies are the same. They will vary greatly," says Kathy Grannis of the National Retail Federation. The clock is ticking for store returns. "Some say 30 days and others say 45 days for electronics it's often times even more strict." If you have a receipt for the gift that can speed up your return. Also "keep all of the packaging intact," says Grannis. "It makes the return process much easier especially if you have a lot of shopping left to do that day you don't want to stand in line for returns."
"Many consumers are leaving money on the table," says Trae Bodge of RetailMeNot. Millions of people who receive gift cards never use them. Many only redeem part of what the cards are worth.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc