Money Minute: Vehicle Quality Slips; Barbie to Debut in Swimsuit Issue


Is your car less dependable than it was? Well, you're not alone. For the first time in 15 years, J.D. Power says car, truck and SUV owners are reporting more problems with their 3-year-old cars than they did the year before. The report says changes made to 2011 models have led to "a noticeable increase" in the number of problems reported.

Most of the complaints concern transmission and engine problems in 4-cylinder vehicles. J.D. Power says the most dependable brands are all high-end cars: Toyota's (TM) Lexus line, Mercedes Benz, General Motors' (GM) Cadillac and Honda's (HMC) Acura line. The car with the highest rate of problems was BMW's Mini.

The big corporate news this morning: Comcast (CMCSA) (CMCSK) has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC) for more than $45 billion -- a deal that would combine the two biggest cable providers. The much smaller Charter Communications (CHTR) had offered to buy Time Warner. No word yet if it will get into a bidding war.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) lost 30 points Wednesday, %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged just barely lower and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 10 points.

Earnings continue to be a major driver for the market, and that's likely to be the case again today, with disappointing results from Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Whole Foods Market (WFM). We're more than halfway through the current reporting season, and so far 2 of 3 companies have topped Wall Street expectations.

Finally, Sports Illustrated is teaming up with Barbie -- to create some controversy and some publicity. The magazine will publish its 50th anniversary Swimsuit edition next week, and it will include a four-page advertising feature starring Barbie, the swimsuit model sold by toymaker Mattel (MAT), right alongside supermodels like Christie Brinkley and Brooklyn Decker.

The ad shoot, done by one of Sports Illustrated's most famous photographers, will promote a special edition Barbie on sale only at Target (TGT). The campaign has sparked a big social media debate -- something that Sports Illustrated, Mattel and Target are all pretty happy about.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.