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Consumer Confidential: Thomas the Tank Engine bought, Harley recall

October 24, 2011 | 10:15 am


Here's your maybe-baby Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

—Thomas the Tank Engine, meet Barbie. The company behind everyone's favorite talking train, Hit Entertainment, is being purchased by El Segundo's Mattel for $680 million in cash. Mattel already markets many Thomas & Friends die-cast and plastic toys under a license that extends until 2014. Global sales of those toys are more than $150 million. Mattel says the deal will help combine its own global marketing and distribution capabilities with Hit Entertainment's global programming and licensing expertise. For those without small ones at home, Thomas the Tank Engine is a popular British children's television series that has spawned a variety of tie-ins and toys.

—Wal-Mart has your number ... at least when it comes to prices. The world's largest retailer is announcing a new strategy that it hopes will pull in procrastinators early by giving them a big incentive: a guarantee that they'll get the lowest price no matter when they buy during the holiday season. Wal-Mart says it will be matching prices on many of its products. Shoppers who buy something at a Wal-Mart store between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, but then find the identical product elsewhere for less, can get a gift card in the amount of the difference. The offer excludes merchandise bought on Wal-Mart's website and some other products, such as groceries.

—Heads up, hog riders: Harley-Davidson is recalling about 308,000 motorcycles to fix a switch problem that can cause failure of the brake lights and possibly even the rear brakes themselves. The company says in documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that brake light switches can be exposed to too much heat from the exhaust system. The heat can cause the brake lights to fail, and the problem also can cause fluid leaks and the loss of rear brakes. The problem affects Touring, CVO Touring and Trike motorcycles from the 2009 through 2012 model years.

— David Lazarus

Photo: Thomas the Tank Engine has a new daddy. Credit: BayBritt Allcroft