Starwatch Consumer

Toyota remakes the Highlander SUV

Updated: 2013-03-28T03:39:04Z

New Highlander

Toyota’s Highlander family hauler is getting quieter and more stylish, but with the look of an athlete who’s not afraid to mix it up.

The automaker unveiled a new version of the SUV on Wednesday at the New York auto show. It’s less boxy on the outside and has richer materials on the inside.

The Highlander, set to go on sale early next year, can now fit an eighth passenger, it handles better and the ride is quieter, the company says.

Mitsubishi woes

Mitsubishi Motors said a battery in a plug-in hybrid Outlander vehicle heated up and melted. No one was injured.

Separately, the Japanese automaker said a battery for i-MiEV electric cars caught fire at an auto assembly plant, but no one was injured.

Mitsubishi said the problems with the lithium ion battery occurred during production and may be related to a change in production methods in December. A spokesman said the company was investigating the cause and has not issued any recalls related to the problem.

Drug review

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said federal regulators are reviewing its application to sell a new type of treatment for grass pollen allergy that gradually reduces allergy symptoms over time, rather than just temporarily relieving the sneezing and itching.

The treatment, a tablet that dissolves under the tongue, could become the first alternative available in the U.S. to getting a long series of uncomfortable allergy shots.

Google eyes

Google has started to notify 8,000 people who will be invited to buy a test version of the company’s Internet-connected glasses for $1,500.

The invitations are being sent to winners of a contest Google conducted a month ago.

Google Glass is supposed to perform smartphone tasks but respond to voice commands instead of fingers.

Housing indicator

A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell slightly in February to the second-highest in nearly three years. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dipped to 104.8 in February. That’s down from January’s reading of 105.2 — the highest since April 2010. Signed contracts are 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

Mortgage help

A federal agency said it is easing rules for troubled borrowers to lower their monthly mortgage payments on loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two government-controlled lenders, said borrowers who are at least 90 days delinquent on their mortgages won’t have to submit financial documents to qualify for a permanent loan modification if they make three on-time payments.

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