Consumer Catch-up: 2017 car sales drop, HP laptop battery recall, AT&T announces 5G, Romaine lettuce warning

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Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side have consumer stories you should know about for Thursday, Jan. 4, 2017. (KGO-TV )

2017 auto sales drop for first time since 2009

Auto sales dropped slightly in 2017 from the year before. Still, demand for new vehicles is strong. Autodata Corp. says sales in the U.S. fell 2-percent to 17.2 million last year. Those numbers fall short of record sales in 2016, totaling 17.55 million vehicles.

Last year was the first year-over-year decline since 2009. General Motors, Ford, and Toyota all reported a 1-percent decline in sales, while Fiat Chrysler had an 8-percent drop. Honda sales were flat.

Nissan and Volkswagen were the winners of 2017, with a 2-percent and 5-percent rise in sales, respectively.

Even with the slight drop, Kelley Blue Book says 2017 still marked the fourth best sales year in U.S. history.

HP recalls lithium laptop batteries

If you bought or received a new laptop over the holidays, better check the battery. Palo Alto-based HP is recalling 500,000 lithium-ion batteries for HP Notebook computers and mobile workstations.

The batteries were sold from Dec. 2015 - Dec. 2017. They are used in HP ProBooks (64x G2 and G3 series, 65x G2 and G3 series), HPx360 310 G2, HP Envy m6, HP Pavilion x360, HP 11, HP ZBook (17 G3, 17 G4, and Studio G3) Mobile Workstations. They were also sold as accessories or replacement batteries for the HP ZBook Studio G4 mobile workstation.

HP received eight reports of the batteries overheating, melting, or charring. One person had a first degree burn on the hand.

HP says customers should go online to see if their battery is recalled, and to find instructions to enable "Battery Safety Mode." HP will provide free replacements.

AT&T announces 5G capabilities this year

AT&T says new 5G technology is coming to its smartphones later this year. The company says it will be the first to roll out the technology to a dozen markets by the end of the year.

Melissa Arnoldi, president, AT&T Technology and Operations, said, "With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more."

The company also said it plans to offer 5G trials to businesses, in addition to mobile customers.

While AT&T does not mention which 12 markets will benefit first, the company does have 5G Evolution capabilities in several major metros, including San Francisco.

Consumer Reports advises avoiding romaine lettuce

Consumer Reports issued an advisory for people in the U.S. to avoid eating romaine lettuce for the time being. Dozens of people in the U.S. and Canada have become ill from E. coli bacteria, which Consumer Reports said is likely from the lettuce.

People in 13 states have reported illnesses, including California. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one person has died.

Health officials in Canada have identified romaine lettuce as the cause, but officials in the U.S. are still investigating. They have not yet recommended people avoid any specific foods.

James Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, said, "Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw."

Consumer Reports suggests consumers avoid buying or eating romaine lettuce until there is more information about the outbreak.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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