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Nissan GT-R goes on Rockies Alberta adventure with Epic Drives

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:59PM

Nissan GT-R Epic Drive

Years after its original debut, the Nissan GT-R remains a much-feared, well-regarded entry in the sports car landscape. Sure, many of its original competitors are onto new generations these days, but Nissan has continually improved the GT-R, giving it meaningful tweaks almost every year since it came to the US market for 2009. Reviewers also just seem to keep finding things to praise about the all-wheel drive, turbocharged coupe. In this episode of Epic Drives, the GT-R proves that in addition to being a quite pleasant road trip companion around the province of Alberta, Canada, in a pinch it can go off-road to herd some horses, too.

At its heart, Epic Drives amounts to half travelogue and half driving review. So in between snaking the GT-R through some picturesque roads, host Arthur St. Antoine takes a tour of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. If you're in the mood to take a drive in the Nissan through a landscape that blends the looks of a prairie, the Alps and fjords, then have a seat and check this video out.

News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

What you missed on 10.24.14

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:32PM


Dodge Challenger2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

The goodness of the 2015 Dodge Challenger isn't just limited to that 707-horsepower Hellcat model. As associate editor Brandon Turkus explains, there's plenty to love about the Challenger R/T with its Scat Pack kit, complete with a 6.4-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and more poise than ever before. Read all about it in today's Quick Spin.

Dodge Viper SEMA ConceptFiat-Chrysler SEMA lineup revealed

The annual aftermarket-fest that is SEMA is right around the corner, and today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles showed us its entire hand. The custom cars, created by the Mopar division, touch on everything from the smallest Fiat 500 and Dodge Dart to super-powerful machines like the Challenger and Viper. Have a look here, to see what's in store for SEMA.

Jason VinesDid Ford bug its former PR chief's car and phone?

The Ford Explorer Firestone tire recall of 2001 was huge news. And in a new report from The Detroit News, Ford's then-head of communications, Jason Vines, is accusing the Blue Oval of bugging his car and company phone during that time. The News received an advanced copy of Vines' upcoming book, which sheds some light on this allegation, and you can read a preview of this whole situation, here.

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Berkeley findings says motorcycle lane-splitting safer than ever [w/video, poll]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 6:59PM

Motorcycle Commuter Safety

The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

In some parts of the US, the concept of a motorcycle buzzing between lanes of slower traffic is a foreign concept, but it's an accepted practice in others. Each year since 2012, The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts a study to check acceptance and safety of lane-splitting in the state, where the act is legal. The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

Among California motorcyclists, lane-splitting is becoming increasingly accepted. In the study, 80.6 percent of riders report doing it on freeways, about the same as before. However, of them, 37.3 percent of them say it happens "Always" compared to 30.9 percent in 2012.

On non-freeways, 71.4 of riders split lanes, up 10.3 percent from 2013. Of them 32.9 percent say it happens "Always," up 7.6 percent from a year ago. Furthermore, 62.1 percent of people split on both types of roads, up 7.5 percent form 2013.

With more people splitting lanes, the question of its impact on safety arises, and the study indicates that the act is getting less dangerous, too. The UC Berkeley study shows 4.7 percent of riders on freeways were hit by a vehicle while lane-splitting in 2014, down from 8.6 percent in 2013 and 11.8 percent in 2012. Non-freeways have seen a similar decline to just 2.0 percent in 2014 compared to 7.4 percent last year and 8.3 percent in 2012. Motorcyclists saying they nearly hit a car or had one try to block them are both lower this year, as well. Drivers are seemingly also finding the practice more acceptable, too.

This year's study includes info from 1,660 respondents, including 951 drivers and 709 motorcycle riders, and it paints a fairly positive picture about the safety of lane-splitting. The entire 51-page study can be read here in PDF format, and scroll down for a report about the study from CBS News.

What do you think of lane-splitting? Vote in our poll below, then have your say in Comments.

Do you think motorcycle lane-splitting is safe?

News Source: California Office of Traffic Safety, CBS This Morning via YouTube

Image Credit: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee / MCT / Getty Images

Artist Peter Max's Corvette collection headed to auction [w/video]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 6:29PM

Peter Max - A Retrospective - 1960-2014

Sometimes, the stories that lead to cars turning up at auction are as interesting as the vehicles themselves. That's absolutely the case with the Peter Max (pictured above) collection of vintage Chevrolet Corvette models that are scheduled to cross the block in the spring of 2016.

Max is perhaps best known as a '60s pop artist who mixed vibrant colors with iconic imagery. However, classic car fans around New York City might know him better for storing a collection of 36 vintage 'Vettes in public parking garages for decades. The assortment is pretty special because it consists of one example of every model year from the original 1953 up until 1989, according to The New York Times.

Unfortunately, New York parking garages aren't really known for their cleanliness, and photos show the artist's Chevrolet collection neglected, caked in dirt and dust. After moving the collection around between several locations in the past few years, Max finally brokered a deal to sell them all off for an undisclosed price earlier this summer.

The collection's new owners are rehabbing the cars in preparation for selling them off. They're hoping to keep them all together as a set, but they're also apparently ready to let them go individually if that doesn't work, a move that will likely build buzz around these cars as they move toward the auction block.

The most bizarre part about these Corvettes is how Max acquired them. Without spoiling too much, it involves a 1989 contest from the cable music channel VH1. Scroll below to watch a video about this fascinating collection, then go read the whole story over at The New York Times.

News Source: The New York Times

Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen / Invision / AP

Porsche working on turbo V12 for Putin limo project?

Posted Oct 24th 2014 5:44PM

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ex

Porsche is best known for building very well-regarded sports cars and better-selling utility vehicles. Come to the company with a big enough bag of cash, though, and the Porsche Engineering division can create just about anything. The group's past projects include working with Harley-Davidson, Mercedes-Benz and corporate cousin Audi, but if rumors prove true, then its latest partner might be the last one you'd expect.

Russian website Wroom reports that Porsche Engineering is building the engine for the Project Cortege government limousine project for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mill is supposedly a turbocharged V12 displacing between 6.0- and 6.6-liters and making around 800 horsepower. When complete, it will reportedly be built by ZMZ with Russian-sourced parts.

The limo is expected to debut in 2017, according to Wroom, but it's just the beginning of Putin's grandiose plans, which also goes by the name of the Motorcade Project. The same platform is also meant to underpin several vehicles for use by the government, including an SUV, a small bus and a sedan. All of them would reportedly have a longitudinally mounted engine and all-wheel drive.

The Porsche link to Project Cortege isn't entirely new. Russian media snapped a picture of a model of one design a few months back, and that vehicle reportedly had some engineering input from the German company. The work on the limo was estimated to have cost the government between $150 million and $400 million, even at that stage.

However, it might be safe to take the apparent success of this whole scheme with a grain of sale. Putin's project has been in the works for several years. Initially, ZiL created the ZiL-4112P as a new government limousine, but the Russian premier reportedly was unhappy with it. Since then, it's been back to the drawing board.

News Source: Wroom via WorldCarFans

Image Credit: Viktor Drachev / AFP / Getty Images

Yamaha R3 entry-level sportbike gets endorsement from Colin Edwards

Posted Oct 24th 2014 5:00PM

Colin Edwards advertises the Yamaha R3

Yamaha is already known for making some very well-liked sportbikes with models like the R6 and R1. For 2015, it has one more to add with the YZF-R3, and this cycle is the smallest in the family yet. To build some hype for this little motorcycle, Yamaha grabbed former MotoGP and Superbike racer Colin Edwards to make a somewhat humorous, if cheesy, video.

The YZF-R3 is supposed to take the DNA of its bigger brothers and shrink it down to a more petite size. Power is provided by a water-cooled, inline, two-cylinder engine with 320cc of displacement. It does have features like dual overhead cams and fuel injection, though.

With those specs, the R3 is basically meant for beginner riders, but it should be pretty nimble, too. And with prices starting at $4,990 in the US, it's a fairly inexpensive way to get into the hobby. Yamaha thinks it can sell around 6,000 of them in North America for the 2015 model year.

The R3 is supposed to his the US market in March. Check out Edwards' video above, and if you just want to see the motorcycle action, skip about 1:40 into the clip. Scroll down to read both announcements.

News Source: Yamaha, Yamaha Motor USA via YouTube

Ford Q3 pretax profits drop to $1.18B

Posted Oct 24th 2014 4:28PM

Ford Investigation

Following positive third quarter financial results recently from General Motors, rival Ford took a tumble in Q3. The automaker posted pre-tax profits of $1.18 billion, compared to about $2.59 billion in Q3 2013, a drop of around 54 percent. Net income also suffered with $835 million made in the quarter, versus $1.272 billion last year, a decline of about 34 percent. The Blue Oval blamed the gloomy figures on three reasons in its release: "lower volume, higher warranty costs and adverse balance sheet exchange effects."

There were problems of one kind or another in practically every region. North America experienced higher warranty costs than expected, partially due to recalls. The sales volume for the quarter was 665,000 units, versus 725,000 in Q3 2013, and pre-tax results amounted to $1.41 billion versus $2.296 billion last year.

South America and Europe both posted worse pre-tax results than last year. On the bright side, European volume was up slightly to 321,000 vehicles, from 303,000 in Q3 2013. The Middle East and Africa also lost $15 million, but that was an improvement compared to the $25 million loss previously experienced in this region.

The Asia Pacific region was also a mixed bag. Volume increased to 346,000 units, but pre-tax financials were $44 million, compared $116 million last year. According to Ford's release, the reason for the change is that the company is opening five factories there in the next nine months and launching Lincoln in China.

Ford was optimistic about future growth, though. It said that one of the reasons for falling volume was changing dealer stock in preparation of new models. In 2015, those updates should start being reflected on he balance sheet with "all five Automotive regions improving on 2014 results," according to the Blue Oval's release. Ford's results can be viewed in total as a PDF, here.

News Source: Ford

Image Credit: Bill Sikes / AP Photo

2015 Honda CR-V performs poorly in Swedish AWD test [w/video]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 3:45PM

Honda CR-V all-wheel drive test

Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld has never been afraid to call out automakers when a vehicle fails one of its battery of examinations. Its famous Moose Test recently caught the Porsche Macan out, and a few years ago, there was a protracted argument between Teknikens Värld and Jeep over the performance of a Grand Cherokee in that evaluation.

This time, the 2015 Honda CR-V is raising the magazine's hackles, but it has nothing to do with avoiding a giant mammal. Snow is obviously an issue in Sweden, and Teknikens Värld has a test that challenges all-wheel drive systems in low-traction settings. On a slanted surface, the Swedes put the vehicles' front wheels on rollers with no traction and demands the rears accelerate away. The Honda couldn't do it. Teknikens Värld claims that it initially found the same result last year from the European CR-V, but Honda Sweden put out a software upgrade correcting the behavior in the test. This year, the CUV went back to failing.

While that's the magazine's side, Honda Sweden doesn't see the test as fair. In a statement to Teknikens Värld, the company explains the way the CUV's all-wheel drive system works. It also claims that the test isn't simulating a realistic situation. "In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels," the announcement says. "A scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely."

Teknikens Värld, for its part, counters that the test was approved by Honda last year. Scroll down to watch the evaluation for yourself and read the magazine's announcement of the results. Let us know in Comments whether you think this is a fair way to assess all-wheel drive systems.

News Source: Teknikens Varld via YouTube

Image Credit: Teknikens Varld

Ferrari Testarossa featured in retrospective by owner Harry Metcalfe

Posted Oct 24th 2014 3:00PM

Harry's Garage 1987 Ferrari Testarossa

Harry Metcalfe, of Evo fame, got our attention earlier this week with a review of the 1954 Series I Land Rover. Today, he's gone a bit more... '80s.

Yes, this is a 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, one of the most vulgar cars from a decade synonymous with vulgar design. While your author might not be keen on its square rear end and cheese-grater doors and fenders, Metcalfe seems to like it quite a bit, giving a detailed walkthrough of his Rosso Corsa subject. That walkthrough includes some time on a subject we can certainly get behind – the TR's flat-12 engine.

Take a look at the latest from Harry's Garage.

News Source: Harry's Garage via YouTube

Toyota sells off Tesla shares, too

Posted Oct 24th 2014 2:15PM

Tesla Toyota

The incredible rise of Tesla's stock price has done little to now stop two major shareholders from ditching their stake in the American EV manufacturer. First, Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, ditched its four-percent stake, and less than a week later, Toyota is doing the same thing, selling off an undisclosed bit of its Tesla investment.

The move comes as Toyota winds down sales of the RAV4 EV, which gets its batteries and electric motor from Tesla at the company's Fremont, CA factory.

"We have a good relationship with Tesla, and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects," Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi told Bloomberg via email.

According to Bloomberg, Toyota maintained a 2.4-percent stake as recently as March 31, making it the tenth-largest of Tesla's investors. As the Japanese shed an undisclosed percentage of its shares, though, another automaker might be eyeing the California company.

Value Walk has a speculative story that claims BMW could be looking at tying up with Tesla, based on a reported meeting between execs from the two companies. The fact that the Munich-based company's carbon-fiber expertise fits nicely with the Palo Alto company's EV knowhow is apparently the driving force behind this speculation. But as usual, take this with a grain of salt.

News Source: Bloomberg, Value Walk

Image Credit: Paul Sakuma / AP

Fiat-Chrysler shows its SEMA lineup

Posted Oct 24th 2014 1:29PM

Dodge Challenger T/A Concept SEMA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles already previewed its 2014 SEMA show lineup with some slick renders. Now, the automaker has finally showed us the actual cars, and among the group there are definitely some that stand out more than others.

Dodge is really showing off its muscle at this year's show with four concepts that all pump up the power of the brand's models. Perhaps most interesting among them is the Challenger T/A Concept (pictured above) in striking Sublime Green and matte black. It's meant to resemble the classic Trans Am racer from the '70s. Under the hood is a 6.4-liter V8, and to fit the vintage style there's a pistol-grip gearshift inside.

The Charger R/T also gets some attention with the Mopar concept that shows off what FCA's aftermarket performance arm can do. Mods include an updated body kit, cold-air intake for the 5.7-liter V8 and a coil-over suspension kit. Beyond that, the Dart R/T Concept looks a lot meaner with a black hood with duct work that leads straight to the air intake. The rest of the compact sedan is dolled up in O-So-Orange paint and is fitted with upgrades to improve handling like a coil-over suspension and big brake kit from the Mopar catalog.

Dodge Viper ACR ConceptThe last Dodge is the track-focused Viper ACR Concept with a radical body kit that the company claims is wind tunnel-tested to produce more downforce. It also packs 15.4-inch carbon ceramic brakes with six-piston calipers. The interior is mostly stripped out to save weight, with some parts replaced with carbon fiber pieces.

Jeep also has five concepts on display, but three of them are from this year's Easter Jeep Safari. The Renegade Riptide and Frostbite are two new takes of the upcoming compact crossover with a focus on surfing and skiing, respectively. If that doesn't to it for you, the Wrangler MOJO, Maximum Performance and Cherokee Dakar are all going to be on display, as well.

Not to be outdone, the rest of the company's other brands have their own concepts, too. Highlights include the Ram 2500 Outdoorsman with a tent in the back for sleeping, and the Fiat 500 Abarth Scorpion with an interesting, two-tone red and white paint job, a cat-back exhaust and leather interior. Unfortunately, the worst of the lot might also be from Fiat with the 500L Custom in dark red and black. It also has an upgraded exhaust and interior, but the look is just a bit underwhelming. (Hard to make that thing look pretty, are we right?)

You can check out all of the concepts in the gallery, and scroll down to read the press release about everything FCA is showing at SEMA.

News Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The Price Is Right plays One Away with Tesla Model S

Contestant Gets Selfish Once Face-To-Face With Luxury EV

Posted Oct 24th 2014 12:45PM

The Price Is Right gives away a Tesla Model S

When it comes to game shows, The Price Is Right is about as mainstream as American TV gets, beaming lust for fancy new prizes into millions of homes every day. Recently, the show held its annual Dream Car Week, which this year included a Tesla Model S along with a Porsche Cayenne, a Land Rover Range Rover Sport, a Maserati Quattroporte and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The contestant invited to come on down an take a crack at the bright-red Model S was Vanessa Ansoorian, who told host Drew Carey that she had originally promised her brother a car if she won one, but once she saw what it was, she began rethinking her stance. Of course, before being able to drive away with the electric car, she needed to win the game, which in this case was One Away. That means that she got a string of numbers – 6-8-4-1-1 - and needed to move each digit up or down one to find the car's price. Can you get it? We won't give away the right answer, or if she won the car, but we look forward to your guesses in the comments below, where you can also watch the tense video clip.

In 2010, The Price Is Right also offered up a Tesla (in that case, a Roadster) on Earth Day. You can see how that attempt went here.

News Source: TVLubber3 via YouTube

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

No Hellcat? No Problem

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:57AM

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

We all knew That Kid. As a freshman, he was a big kid, overweight but surprisingly strong. Still, he was often picked on for his size. Then, he chatted with the football coach, who convinced him that his true calling was on the team's offensive line. After a season on the freshman squad and a summer of two-a-days, this mild-mannered, husky high schooler returned for his sophomore year as a big, imposing, solid piece of muscle. Needless to say, the same bullies that picked on him were praying he'd forgotten about them as a 10th grader.

That's the V8-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger. It arrived on the scene with a max of 425 horsepower and a bit of a weight problem. It completed its proverbial freshman year with a nice 2011 refresh, where the SRT8 was bumped up to 470 hp, but it still had some work to do.

Enter 2015, and fresh off three months of constant burpees and wind sprints, the newest Challenger is as big and powerful as it's ever been, but it's now got poise and potential, and my goodness, it's fun in a way that Dodge's muscle car has never been.

Driving Notes
  • What you see here is not actually a Challenger SRT – it's the R/T Scat Pack. While the SRT does add wider rubber, six-piston Brembo brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and standard leather, the meat and potatoes of the Scat Pack is the same. Under that long hood sits the same SRT-spec 6.4-liter V8, thundering out an extra 15 hp over last year's car. With peak horsepower arriving at 6,000 rpm, all 475 pound-feet of torque showing up at 4,200 rpm and a 6,400-rpm redline, the 6.4 remains an engine that's happiest being run hard.
  • That's not to say there's a lack of oomph anywhere in its rev range, though. The Challenger Scat Pack would happily annihilate the pair of Goodyear Eagle F1s that call the rear wheels their home, were it not for the electrical super-ego that is the three-mode traction control system. There's a ton of torque, but it's so surprisingly simple to manage, thanks to the predictable throttle response. Sport Mode sharpens that a bit, although the throttle is still easy to modulate, particularly on tip-in.
  • The engine's goodness isn't surprising – the 6.4-liter Hemi has always been a charmer. What's made it better for 2015 is the inclusion of a modern automatic transmission. In place of the antiquated five-speed automatic of the 2014 Challenger SRT and R/T is ZF's exceptional eight-speed unit.
  • As it was in the Jaguar F-Type V6 S I reviewed a few months back, the ZF autobox is a beauty. In automatic mode, it's level-headed and unobtrusive. Switch to manual (and set the transmission to Sport) and the Challenger's aluminum, wheel-mounted paddles become an intuitive and hilariously entertaining way of channeling the engine's power. Upshifts are very quick – 250 milliseconds in Sport versus 400 milliseconds normally – and are accompanied with a sharp bark from the engine on upshifts.
  • For 2015, Dodge has finally paid some attention to the Challenger's suspension, fitting the R/T Scat Pack (and all Super Track Pak-equipped models) with Bilstein shocks, a ride height that's been dropped by half an inch and brawnier sway bars. Also new is a three-mode electric power-assisted steering system, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes.
  • The result of these upgrades is the best-driving generation of Challenger there's ever been. The handling is sharper and more responsive, with less roll through the corners and less squat and dive under hard pedal inputs. Moreover, Dodge has managed to eke out additional feedback through the chassis, making it easier to judge grip levels from the sticky Goodyears. The ultimate handling threshold feels higher, too, like you can really go further before it gives up.
  • The new electric power steering is an improvement over the utterly lifeless rack of the old Challenger, largely because of the way it builds weight. From a small on-center dead spot, heft builds nicely and progressively. Feedback is still limited, but when you turn the wheel, it actually feels like you're helming a 4,000-pound vehicle (that's a good thing). Sport adds even more weight, but it still feels sharp and manageable.
  • Normally, I'd touch on the aesthetics and massively overhauled interior of the 2015 Challenger. But, before testing the Scat Pack, I spent a week with the Challenger SXT. Look for a full and thorough recap on the tech, interior and exterior changes when I review that car in the coming weeks.
  • Pricing for the R/T Scat Pack start at $37,495, which isn't terrible, considering that everything I mentioned above – aside from the eight-speed auto – is a standard item. My tester added the $995 Technology Group (adaptive cruise, forward collision warning), $1,500 Leather Interior Group (heated and vented leather/suede seats, powered tilt/telescopic steering), $495 Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitoring, remote start), $1,995 Scat Pack Appearance Pack (HID headlamps, 20-inch black alloy wheels and assorted matching trim bits) and the $695 8.4-inch, nav-equipped touchscreen. Combined with the $1,400 ZF transmission and $995 destination charge, the total price rang up at $45,570.
Before 2015, the Dodge Challenger was the most loyal to the original idea of a muscle car, being both big and very quick in a straight line. While that was fine, it meant Dodge's entry to the reborn segment simply couldn't stand up to more focused competition. This refresh, though, is so comprehensive and so much more finely tuned that you forget about the car's past.

The Challenger still has a bit of a weight problem, and if ultimate performance is your number one priority, both the new Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE will provide a far better muscle car driving experience. But finally, Dodge has built a Challenger that you'll not only want to drive, but that wants to be driven. That's the kind of yearly change we can get used to.

Vital Stats

R/T Scat Pack
6.4L V8
485 HP / 475 LB-FT
8-Speed Automatic
5 Years / 100,000 Miles
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:32AM

Toyota Prius

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," – Ed Kim, Autopacific

Fuel prices in the US have been tumbling for the last several weeks, with the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.120 as of October 20, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That price reflects a serious recent drop from $3.299 on October 6. Reports have even suggested that those low numbers might not change for a little while, perhaps as long as years. While drivers certainly love paying less at the pump, the change may be hurting the market for more fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Prius.

According to a report from National Public Radio, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and EVs are down around 5 percent for the year, but trucks and SUVs have seen a 17 and 20 percent improvement, respectively. Autoblog Green's By the Numbers reports indicate similar figures of around a 5.4 percent drop so far in 2014. In fact, as of September, green-car sales have endured their fourth straight month of declines. That segment of the market fell 11 percent year-over-year in August and 9.6 percent in September.

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific tells Autoblog. That paints a bleak picture for hybrids, because at the moment, the Prius is doing pretty poorly. For the year through September, its sales are down 11.39 percent, off by 10.15 percent for just that month.

Of course, the Prius also has things twice has hard. Not only does it have to deal with the falling fuel prices like the rest of its segment-mates, it's about to be replaced. Rumors suggest that some versions of the next generation could get as much as 60 miles per gallon. "I do think that the next Prius will reignite interest in the segment, especially if it offers the 10-percent fuel economy improvement that Toyota has been claiming," said Kim.

That improvement still might make things tough, though. According to Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs speaking to Autoblog via email, "The next-generation Prius – and other hybrids and electrics – have a big challenge against traditional gas vehicles, which keep improving with every version in terms of fuel economy."

Meanwhile, the overall US auto market is booming. As of August, the Seasonally Adjusted Sales Rate showed the best figures since 2006, at about 17.5 million units. "Right now, gas prices are dropping, sales of fuel-sippers are also falling (or at least not growing) and sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, including big ones, are way up," said Krebs. Scroll down to listen to the full report from NPR.
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