Chrysler Not Budging on SUV Safety Showdown

Morning Business Memo:

In one of the biggest-ever showdowns between an automaker and government regulators, Chrysler today is set to file papers explaining its refusal to recall 2.7 million older Jeep SUVs that are at risk of catching fire in rear-end collisions. The government says 51 people have suffered fiery deaths in Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty models with gas tanks mounted behind the rear axles.

But Chrysler is expected to stick to its contention that the SUVs are as safe as similar vehicles on the road. The Jeeps, it says, met all federal safety standards when they were built, some more than two decades ago. Car companies rarely clash publicly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that monitors auto safety.

Ford is giving up on touch screens, bringing back traditional knobs and buttons to its interactive dashboards. Introduced three years ago with much fanfare, MyFordTouch put selections for entertainment, navigation and heating on a touch-screen interface. The hi-tech features also respond to voice commands. But the system received poor reviews from Consumer Reports magazine and others who complained that "simple tasks have been made time-consuming and distracting."

Netflix's deal to air original television programming from Dreamworks Animation might be a major coup for both companies. Netflix says the multiyear agreement is its biggest deal ever for original first-run content. It includes more than 300 hours of new TV episodes in a multi-year deal starting in 2014. The transaction helps Netflix compete with pay TV channels such as HBO and Showtime, while giving Dreamworks a potentially lucrative outlet for its shows as it tries to shed its reliance on two or three big-budget movies each year. Investors hailed the deal. Netflix shares jumped more than 7 percent after the deal was announced. Dreamworks shares rose 4 percent.

President Obama is sending a strong signal that Ben Bernanke will step down as chairman of the Federal Reserve when his term ends early next year. "He's already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to," the President told Charlie Rose in an interview on PBS. "Ben Bernanke's done an outstanding job."

The Fed chairman, who has been trying to prop up the U.S. economy since the end of the recession and financial crisis, is widely expected to leave his job at the end of January. Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellin appears to be the leading contender to replace him.

Thrifty Car Rental says it's sorry, but many customers who were offered a free one-day rental won't be getting it, after all. The company says the offer was intended for a select group of top customers but was sent accidentally to many other people.

There's good news for most companies that provide health benefits for their employees: America's slowdown in medical costs might be turning into a trend, rather than a mere pause. A report today from accounting and consulting giant PwC projects lower overall growth in medical costs for next year, even as the economy gains strength and millions of uninsured people receive coverage under President Obama's health care law. If the calculations are correct, cost spikes because of the new health care law should be contained within a relatively narrow market segment. Since the recession in 2008, the increase in medical costs has been smaller than it was before.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesabc