Northwest Airlines chief executive Richard H. Anderson resigned to become executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, the companies said. The airline's board of directors elected Northwest President Douglas M. Steenland to the additional position of chief executive. Anderson, 49, a former Texas prosecutor, assumed the top job at Northwest in February 2001.

Car-Complaint System Criticized

A government computer system for tracking complaints about automobile defects is less effective and more expensive than intended, the Department of Transportation's inspector general said in a report. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration responded that it is working to improve the system so it can analyze complaints and pinpoint potential auto safety problems. The inspector general otherwise found that the agency has made "significant progress" in implementing safety policies required by Congress in 2000 after several hundred people died from rollover accidents involving Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles equipped with Firestone tires.

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General Motors said its new vehicle business rose 20 percent in September as incentive offers helped its truck sales climb 32 percent, eclipsing an industry record. Toyota, Nissan and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group also fared well, posting double-digit gains, but Ford said overall sales fell nearly 7 percent in September despite incentive offers similar to GM's.

Bayer must defend itself in a class-action suit alleging that it lied to investors about the safety of its cholesterol pill Baycol before a recall triggered a 17 percent drop in its stock price, a federal judge ruled. The German drug and chemical maker misled investors about the safety and commercial viability of Baycol after learning of potentially fatal side effects in August 2000, the lawsuit claims. Bayer withdrew Baycol from the market a year later.

Chevron Phillips Chemical will pay $1.8 million for Clean Air Act violations at a plant near Houston that led to chemical releases, two explosions, three deaths and almost 100 injuries in June 1999 and March 2000. The amount was agreed to in a settlement with the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Twelve San Francisco hotel owners locked out about 2,800 workers after employees at four other hotels went on strike over a contract dispute. The employees arrived at work to find doors locked and bosses who said they will not be working. Before the lockout, the employees had authorized their union to call a strike.

Molson's chief executive said the brewer was reviewing alternatives for compensation and option issues related to its proposed merger with Adolph Coors Co. Last month, holders of almost 10 percent of Molson's Class A shares said they were resisting the options plan, putting approval of the $3.4 billion stock swap with Coors at risk.

Lucent Technologies was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which said the company failed to properly credit employees who took pregnancy leave. The suit alleges that the telephone equipment manufacturer credited employees who took pregnancy leave before 1979 with a maximum of 30 days of service, while employees who took leave for other reasons received credit for their entire time.

PalmOne settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged its older handheld computers could damage desktop computers when the devices were synchronized. The company agreed to pay affected customers $200 in cash or a credit of $20 to $80 toward a PalmOne product, depending on the extent of damage.

INTERNATIONAL

The Group of Seven major industrial nations yesterday issued a vague statement on the issue of forgiving the debts of the world's poorest countries. "We are now committed to . . . making progress on debt relief and grant financing," the G-7 said in a communique. That outcome, a disappointment for aid groups such as Oxfam International, suggests that months of further negotiations will be necessary to strike a compromise between rival plans for debt relief advanced by the United States and Britain.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.