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Consumer Confidential: Airline merger, GM sales up, Avis plays tough

May 3, 2010 |  9:36 am

Here's your merge-'em-up Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--As expected, United Airlines and Continental Airlines say they're climbing into bed together in a $3-billion corporate marriage. The deal, if approved, would create the world's largest carrier and would give United -- they'll be dropping the Continental name -- control of nearly a quarter of the domestic air-travel market. What does that mean for passengers? The experts say higher fares are all but inevitable. I'll have more on this in my Tuesday column.

--Last week, we heard encouraging news from Ford Motor Co. that it was pulling out of its sales slump. Now General Motors Co. is stepping up with word that its sales rose 6.4% last month. This has something to do with price breaks and other incentives offered by the carmaker, and also with troubles at Toyota, which has recalled millions of vehicles because of safety issues. Clearly U.S. drivers are giving domestic brands a second look and liking what they see.

--Last week, we also heard that car-rental giant Hertz Global Holdings planned to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group. But Hertz may have to try harder. Rival Avis Budget Group says it's ready to outbid Hertz for Dollar Thrifty. "We would like to make a substantially higher offer to acquire Dollar Thrifty, especially in light of your recent performance,'' Avis Chief Executive Ronald Nelson said in a letter to Dollar Thrifty execs. No matter who wins the bidding war, it's clear that there will be fewer players in the car-rental game. As with airline mergers, that will likely mean only one thing.

-- David Lazarus