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Consumer Confidential: Free shipping from Wal-Mart; Honda Accord is safest, GM models not so much

November 11, 2010 |  9:23 am

Here's your throw-me-the-ball Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Wal-Mart doesn't fool around. The world's biggest retailer is offering free shipping with no minimum purchase for almost 60,000 items this holiday season. The move is certain to pressure other retailers to follow suit and will place a new burden on smaller e-merchants that want to compete for business. Wal-Mart also says it won't raise prices to cover shipping costs. The free-shipping offer ends Dec. 20, but Wal-Mart is already saying it will likely extend the move to other products down the road. Sweet.

-- Is safety a key factor for your driving needs? If so, you'll want to take a closer look at the Honda Accord, which has received the highest possible safety rating among 2011 passenger cars tested for crashes under new U.S. standards, edging Toyota and Hyundai sedans. The midsize Accord got an overall five-star rating, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of 40 models tested so far, six rated five stars overall. The Accord is the first to get five stars in each of three crash categories tested by NHTSA.

-- On the other hand, General Motors is recalling 13,780 Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS cars in the U.S. because of a flaw that can cause power-steering fluid to leak and start an engine fire. The company is targeting 2010 and 2011 Lucerne and DTS vehicles following reports of two fires caused by leaking fluid reaching the starter or alternator cable. No injuries were reported. If you're driving a car potentially affected by the recall, contact your dealer pronto.

-- David Lazarus