TIME Autos

Fiat to Spin Off Ferrari As a Separate Company

A Ferrari arrives to join the hundreds of Ferrari's on display at the "Race Through the Decades 1954-2014" to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Ferrari in the United States at Beverly Hills on October 12, 2014.
A Ferrari arrives to join the hundreds of Ferrari's on display at the "Race Through the Decades 1954-2014" to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Ferrari in the United States at Beverly Hills on October 12, 2014. Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler set to spin the brand off into a separate, independent company

Ferrari might be the car all people, even the strident non-gearheads, would love to be able to take out for a spin. Executives at the Italian automaker will be taking their company out for a spin next year, it was announced today, as Fiat Chrysler is spinning the brand off into an independent company.

Ferrari will also IPO, with a 10% stake in the company hitting the markets. The remaining 90% will be distributed among FCA shareholders, according to Reuters. Ferrari will likely list in both New York and on a European exchange. The spinoff and IPO is part of Fiat Chrysler’s attempt to grow by 48-billion euro ($61 billion).

“As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximizing the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari,” FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its Wall Street debut earlier this month, shifting the carmaker’s center of gravity away from Italy and capping a decade of canny dealmaking and tough restructuring by Marchionne.

The world’s seventh-largest auto group has sought the U.S. listing to help to establish itself as a leading global player through access to the world’s biggest equity market and the cheaper, more reliable source of funding it ultimately offers.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Autos

Fiat Chrysler to Spin Off Sports Car Maker Ferrari

(MILAN) — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Wednesday it will spin off sports car maker Ferrari into a separate company.

The company said in a statement that spinning off Ferrari was part of a plan to raise capital to support the new merged carmakers’ future growth.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement that it was “proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari” following the completion of the merger of Chrysler and Fiat with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month.

A Ferrari spinoff has long been speculated as a way to unlock value in Ferrari. The move comes about two months after an awkward management transition at Ferrari that saw the longtime chairman Luca di Montezemolo resign after a public spat with Marchionne.

MONEY Tech

New Service Lets Kids Get in the Car with Strangers

Shuddle, which has launched a car service for transporting kids, is one of the latest companies to adopt an Uber-esque model.

MONEY Autos

Car Dealers Swear They Don’t Haggle, Find the Idea Insulting

Customer and salesperson shaking hands in front of automobiles in car showroom
Getty Images

Last week, the auto research site Edmunds.com was pressured by car dealerships to pull ads mocking the absurdity of haggling.

Edmunds.com is in the business of helping consumers who hate haggling. The site launched a Price Promise service in 2013, allowing drivers to go online and gather guaranteed final prices that will be honored by local car dealerships. This past summer, Edmunds took its anti-haggling campaign a step further by sponsoring a special Car Week that promised buyers upfront, haggle-free pricing on every vehicle on participating dealership lots.

Last week, Edmunds hit the anti-haggling theme once more, with the launch of a series of amusing online ads dubbed the “Absurdity of Haggling.” In the hidden-camera ads, a hired actor works the register at a supermarket and haggles over the price of milk, carrots, squash, and other groceries with unsuspecting customers. Understandably, the customers are confused and outraged when the “cashier” tosses out inflated prices ($9 for a quart of milk!) and resorts to classic car dealership maneuvers (“Let me call my manager…”) to get people to pay more than they should for groceries.

“You wouldn’t haggle for your groceries,” reads a line at the end of the ads, “so why do it when buying a car?”

Auto dealerships—which are partners with Edmunds.com and sell cars with the help of the site’s Price Promise tool—were not amused. Many found the ads insulting, and they pressured Edmunds to pull them. Edmunds didn’t put up much of a fight. “We are terminating the videos and getting back to working with our dealer partners to improve the car buying process for car shoppers around the country,” Edmunds President Seth Berkowitz said in a statement. “Some of our partners were deeply insulted, expressing that our attempt at humor reinforced outdated stereotypes. That was obviously never our intent.”

Though Edmunds pulled the ads, you can still find them online, like here:

It’s not surprising that car dealerships didn’t like these ads. (“Truth Hurts!” one online commenter noted. “Hits too close to home,” said another.) What is pretty amazing, however, is that some dealerships were insulted by the mere idea that haggling actually takes place during the car-buying transaction. “Negotiating prices on cars has always been expected by the consumer, and having it referred to as ‘haggling’ by a company that I am a customer of is insulting,” said Jeff Wyler, CEO of the Wyler group of dealerships, according to AdAge.

Right. Let that set in. We’re supposed to believe that there’s a big difference between “negotiating prices” and “haggling.” This despite the fact that these terms are routinely used interchangeably. What’s more, we’re supposed to believe that such (non-haggling) price negotiations take place only because that’s what the customer expects. This despite surveys like one published this past summer (by Edmunds) showing that 83% of consumers would prefer to avoid haggling over car prices.

Obviously, consumers believe that car dealerships engage in haggling—and the vast majority of us hate that’s it’s part of the process. So while dealerships find the Edmunds ads insulting, there’s something else that’s being insulted here as well: customers’ intelligence.

MONEY Autos

BMW M3 is a Perfect Family Sedan — If Your Family Works for NASCAR

This car's engine, differential, suspension, and automatic transmission all add up to one heck of a driving experience.

BMW’s new M3 4-door is technically called a sedan, as in a family car. Which it is, if you have the kind of family that enjoys slingshotting out of curves at 60 m.p.h. The M3 is to sedans what the German four-man Olympic bobsled is to your kids’ Flexible Flyer.

Understand that this is a driver’s car in every aspect, which you’d expect out of a division created to produce race cars to compete on the European touring circuit. The low, sloping hood seems to bury its face into the asphalt that you are chewing up. And you can set the M3’s controls for a variety of engine, steering, and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) combinations so that you can feel everything that’s happening around you any way you wish. The optional dual-clutch transmission adds three mode variables to play with. But all of the settings seem designed with one thing in mind, to urge you forward.

That begins, natch, with the power plant. There was some anxiety among Beemer buddies when the engine specs of the M3 and its coupe cousin, the M4, were revealed. BMW has chosen a 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder number to replace a beefier 4.0L V-8. But as is typical today, engine designers are coaxing more oomph out of smaller packages, which also means less weight: the I-6 gets 424 h.p., which is a 10-horse improvement. But the torque really jumps, in part because the M3 has twin turbochargers that are configured to chime in on demand. Pair that with a seamless, dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic version and the M3 means giddy passing power at any speed.

Then there’s the M Differential. Have to admit, I’ve been indifferent to differentials. Every car has one, but to the undifferentiated, let me explain: A differential is a thingamajig on the axle that uses a set of pinion gears (never mind) to change the rotational speed of a tire. It’s necessary because when you go into a left-hand curve, say, the outside right rear tire will be going faster than the inside one because it’s covering a longer distance. The differential distributes the engine torque equally to the two rear wheels, leveling the rotational speed so you aren’t burning out tires or veering off kilter.

The M3’s differential takes that basic tool and loads it with sensors that measure a range of variables such as yaw, torque, lateral acceleration, and driving speed, sniffing the ground to look for more speed and stability. When the M3 is doing this as you are entering a curve it is inevitably whispering in your ear, “Forget the brake; I’ll handle this.” And you find yourself leaving your foot on the accelerator thinking, “Yes, this makes perfect sense.”

In addition to the M Diff, there’s also a $1,000 option called Adaptive M suspension. You have the choice of Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus, depending on how tuned into the road you want to be. According to the company, sensors are recalculating and regulating the dampers every 2.5 milliseconds at each wheel to apply the precise amount of damping. At the same time, the DSC automatic transmission has settings for three different driving modes: Efficient, Sport, and Sport Plus, as in fast, faster and Messerschmitt. The settings correspond to the response of the accelerator. In Efficient, it’s a smoother takeoff; in Sport Plus it’s more reactive. There’s even a race setting called Launch Mode that allows you to hammer the throttle from an idle position to full power.

The M3 has a race car look about it, too, with flared fender skirts, a carbon roof, and, on the inside, that combination of hard-and-soft, steel-and-leather luxury.

A car loaded with this much technology has an Apple-like premium. Although the basic price on the M3 is about $63,000, the bells and whistles add up quickly. In addition to the $1,000 Active M suspension, the M Double clutch automatic adds $2,900, and the carbon ceramic brakes $8,150 more. My test car revved in at $84,000, including the $550 “Yas Marina Blue” metallic paint job that people tend to really like or really hate.

Count me on the “like” side on the paint job; as for the M3 itself, I like it a lot. A whole lot.

MONEY Gas

Surprise: Gas Costs Less Than it Did a Decade Ago

The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon at the Hi Tech Fuels station on Brainerd Road and other stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. John Rawlston—AP

But you may still feel like you're paying more. Here's why.

Gas prices have been plunging lately. For consumers, that’s great! It’s more money in your pocket.

Gas now averages $3.07 a gallon nationwide, down from $3.60 in June and $3.30 a year ago. That’s billions of dollars of savings for U.S. households.

But gasoline is one of the few products whose prices we vividly remember. Behavioral economist Daniel Ariely once explained:

For the several minutes that I stand at the pump, all I do is stare at the growing total on the meter — there is nothing else to do. I have time to remember how much it cost a year ago, two years ago, and even six years ago.

Gas may be cheaper today than it was a year or two ago, but I’ve heard several people recently say, “Sure, but I remember when it was $1.50 a gallon!” That nostalgia makes us think we’re still paying a fortune at the pump.

But several other things have changed lately that affect the real price of gasoline:

  • The average car has a much better fuel economy today than it used to.
  • The average American is driving less than they used to.
  • Average nominal wages are higher today than they used to be.

You have to adjust for all three improvements to show the true price of gas, and the real impact it has on our wallets.

When you do, the real price of gas is lower today than it was a decade ago, and about the same as it was in the early 1990s:

Source: Department of Transportation, Energy Information Agency, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The formula used to calculate this graph is: (average gas prices/average hourly wages of nonsupervisory workers) * (annual miles driven per capita/average MPG of passenger cars).

One of the most important forces in economics is that people adapt. And that’s what you’re seeing here.

Gas prices surged in the early 2000s, so auto companies started building more fuel-efficient cars, which consumers demanded (as did new regulations).

Fuel-efficient cars used to be dinky little toys that you’d be embarrassed to drive. That’s changing. GM GENERAL MOTORS CO. GM -0.3457% CEO Mary Barra commented last month: “The customer has that expectation. It’s not an ‘or’, it’s an ‘and.’ They’re expecting to have winning vehicles, but also to have the fuel efficiency. It becomes a business priority.”

Consider: A 1999 Chevy Suburban got 18 miles per gallon and had 290 horsepower. A 2015 Suburban gets 23 miles per gallon with 355 horsepower.

High gas prices also likely played a role in pushing families from the suburbs into the cities, where commutes are shorter. As Reuters reports: “In 2010, a total of 80.7 percent of Americans lived in urban areas, up from 79 percent in 2000. Conversely, 19.3 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas in 2010, down from 21 percent in 2000.”

I’m not a fan of forecasts, because they’re pretty much all wrong. But here goes: Over the next 20 years we’ll see moderately higher gas prices combined with much better fuel economy. Taken together, this chart — with all its adjustments — won’t look too much different two decades from now than it does today.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” Stephen Hawking said. And we are.

For more on this topic:

Morgan Housel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors, and has a disclosure policy.

MONEY Autos

How to Tell If You’re Safe From Auto Recalls

An airbag igniter is built into a steering wheel for a car at the Takata Ignition Systems Gmbh factory in Schoenebeck, Germany, 17 April 2014.
An airbag igniter being installed at a Takata factory in Schoenebeck, Germany Jens Wolf—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

It seems like every other day, news breaks about a recall on millions of cars that, if left unaddressed, could prove deadly. Here's what consumers can do to ensure their safety.

There are two months left in the year, but 2014 has already broken the record for most auto recalls ever. As of October, automakers had issued recalls for an estimated all-time-high of 56 million vehicles in the U.S. “To put that in perspective, automakers have now recalled more than three times the number of new cars and trucks Americans will buy this year,” the Detroit Free Press noted.

The flurry of recalls has come fast and furiously in 2014. This week, Toyota issued a recall on roughly 250,000 vehicles in the U.S. related to faulty airbags, on top of a global recall of 1.7 million Toyotas for a wide range of safety defects that circulated last week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists 29 separate auto manufacturer recalls thus far in the month of October, and the agency released a special consumer advisory this week, alerting the owners of 7.8 million vehicles that they should take “immediate action” to replace dangerously defective airbags.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. General Motors recalled 2.7 million vehicles last May, less than one month after the automaker announced it had spent $1.3 billion to recall 7 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.6 million for faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. Ford recalled 700,000 vehicles last spring because of concerns the airbags wouldn’t deploy quickly enough, while some 16 million vehicles from 10 automakers have been recalled because the airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, could inflate with explosive force strong enough to hurt or even kill the riders the devices are designed to save in the case of an accident. And on and on.

The numbers are so big, and the recalls pop up with such frequency, that you might be inclined to tune them out—not unlike the hacks and data breaches that occur with astonishing regularity at major retailers. But then, you know … there’s death and catastrophic injury. The potential of anything so dire affecting you and your loved ones should make you snap to attention and take action. Here are steps to take to stay safe:

For a Car You Own
When a car is subject to a safety recall, the automaker is required to notify vehicle owners via mail. The letter will feature the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) emblem and include the words “SAFETY RECALL NOTICE” in large typeset. Hopefully that’s enough to alert recipients that this isn’t junk mail. The notification will include instructions, typically consisting of the need to bring the vehicle into a local dealership and have the recalled issue fixed. The service should be provided free of charge to the owner.

You might assume that service departments would drag their feet on handling such recalls—customers aren’t paying money out of pocket after all—but a Reuters story from this past summer pointed out that the recalls represent opportunity for car dealerships. Recalls bring in new customers, or bring back customers that haven’t been at the dealership since they bought the car, and when they bring the recalled vehicle in to be serviced, they may be inclined to get the oil changed or have some other work done. Heck, many have been known to browse showrooms while waiting for their old cars to be fixed, where they wind up getting talked into buying new cars. The takeaway for consumers is: Don’t allow yourself to be upsold into a costly service job when you’re at the dealership getting a recall issue addressed, and don’t buy a new car unless it’s truly the model you want, at the price you want.

To make sure that your car is safe, the NHTSA offers a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search feature online. Enter your VIN—which is displayed on the dashboard of the driver’s side is most easily seen looking through the windshield from outside—and you can find out if your car has been recalled anytime over the past 15 years, as well as whether or not the recall has been repaired on your specific vehicle. Unfortunately, the government site can be glitchy (the VIN search function has been listed as “temporarily unavailable” lately). If it’s not working—or even if it is and you want to be doubly careful—head to Carfax.com, which also allows people to look up recall issues for specific cars using VINs at no charge. For yet another option, the NHTSA allows you to sign up for email alerts for recalls on up to five vehicles, as well as alerts regarding any recalls of car seats and tires.

For a Car You Might Buy
Before buying a used car, do some due diligence on recalls. Carfax estimates that 3.5 million used cars were listed for sale last year with unfixed safety recalls. Get the VIN of the specific used car you’re interested in, and follow the steps above to make sure that any recall has been addressed. If it hasn’t, make the owner fix it before you buy—or use the fact that the repair hasn’t been made as a reason to cut the asking price. If you wind up closing the deal, don’t forget to bring the car into a local dealership to get the recall fixed asap.

For a Car You Might Rent
A bill currently under consideration in Congress called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 would allow agencies to rent cars that have been subject to recalls only if the defects have been fixed. In other words, as of now, it’s vaguely legal for the Hertzes and Enterprises of the world to rent recalled cars even if the recall hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in recent years, some major agencies have tried to make the case that it’s OK to continue to rent recalled vehicles to customers because some recalls are unimportant, as they don’t qualify as serious safety risks.

USA Today columnist Bill McGee investigated the murky world of recalls and rental cars this past summer. What he found is that agencies generally proactively remove vehicles from their fleets or have them fixed pronto if they’ve been subject to dangerous, high-profile recalls—failure to do so could expose them to millions in lawsuits if an accident occurred due to an unfixed recall. Hertz and Avis, among others, have said that coping with recalls has cost their companies millions of dollars this year, because when recalled vehicles are being fixed at dealerships they obviously can’t be rented out to customers.

But again, until the Safe Rental Car Act—named for two sisters who died in 2004 in a rental car with power steering fluid recall that hadn’t been fixed—is passed into law (hardly a done deal), agencies aren’t obligated to have all car recalls addressed before renting them out. “Currently, there is no prohibition on rental car companies renting vehicles that are under a recall, but have not yet been remedied,” a former NHTSA administrator named David Strickland testified to Congress last year.

What can a renter do to stay safe? Start by clarifying your agency’s policy. Alamo, for instance, states plainly, “We do not rent recalled vehicles until the recall has been remedied.” But information regarding recalls can be vague or hard to find with some other rental operators. If the policy is remotely unclear, call and ask questions.

You can also use the NHTSA’s database to see if the vehicle model you have reserved has been recalled, but this strategy comes with complications. For one thing, rental agencies generally don’t guarantee a specific model with a reservation—you reserve a “mid-size” category of vehicle, not a Toyota Camry or whatever. What’s more, it’s impossible to know a car’s specific VIN until you pick the vehicle up, and therefore it’s impossible to check if the model’s recall problems have been fixed. In light of these problems, you might want to make another call—to your local representative in Congress, to urge support of the Safe Rental Car Act.

Read next: Toyota Announces a U.S. Recall Over Faulty Passenger-Side Airbags

MONEY Gas

Last Time Gas Prices Were This Cheap, It Was January 2011

The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon at the Hi Tech Fuels station on Brainerd Road and other stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. John Rawlston—AP

Average prices at the pump have dropped roughly 10¢ in one week, and drivers in no fewer than 17 states are already paying less than $3 per gallon.

The analysts forecast that $3 gas was in our nation’s future, and indeed, according to AAA data, the average price for a gallon of regular is currently under the $3 mark in 17 states. The gas price tracking app GasBuddy reports that 46% of gas stations around the country are now charging less than $3 per gallon, compared with just 3% one year ago.

Nationally, the average has fallen by roughly a dime over the course of a quick seven days, landing just under $3.09 as of Wednesday. That’s about 25¢ cheaper than what drivers were paying for gas both one month and one year ago, and 60¢ less than prices in spring and early summer 2014. The cost of filling up has been positively plummeting for drivers in states such as Kentucky and Indiana, where gas stations lowered prices an average of 17¢ and 16¢, respectively, during a recent seven-day span.

Overall, the current $3.086 national average is the lowest the country has seen since early January 2011, when it was measured at $3.07. Could prices go even lower? Sure. In fact, that’s more or less what’s expected.

Earlier this fall, experts had predicted the national average would “perhaps” hit $3.10 or $3.15 by year’s end. What this means is that prices have dipped more quickly and sharply than most analysts ever anticipated—thanks to weak demand, increased global production, and the strengthening U.S. dollar, among other forces. Now experts such as GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan are projecting that the national average “will break the $3/gallon mark by around Election Day.”

The last time we were under the $3 mark as a country was December 2010. What’s interesting is that people weren’t particularly happy about gas prices at the time—because the average had been roughly 40¢ cheaper one year prior to that. Everything is relative.

TIME Autos

Owners of Nearly 8 Million Cars Warned to Replace Airbags Immediately

Takata Airbags Lead Toyota, Nissan To Recall 3 Million Cars
The airbag unit for the passenger seat of a Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle is seen at the company's showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, April 11, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal regulators said Tuesday that 7.8 million are affected by faulty air bags from supplier Takata

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday warned owners of nearly 8 million cars with potentially faulty airbags to “act immediately” on notices to replace the defective parts, in an alert sent over fears that car owners weren’t getting defective airbags replaced, leaving them at risk of injury or death.

 

The NHTSA has recommended that owners of 7.8 million Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors models replace air bags supplied by Takata. The airbags, which can explode in a flurry of shrapnel even after a minor accident, have caused at least three deaths and more than 100 injuries.

“Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata airbags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

A total of more than 14 million vehicles from 11 automakers have been recalled over Takata airbags, most in the last two years, the New York Times reports.

MONEY Autos

The Price of Hybrid and Electric Cars Is Plummeting. Here’s Why

2012 Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius David Dewhurst

Among the trickle-down effects of cheaper gas prices are lower sales totals for alternative-fuel cars—which in turn have forced automakers to slash prices on these vehicles.

USA Today just reported that Ford is cutting the sticker price of the fully battery-powered plug-in Focus Electric by a flat $6,000. That’s on top of a $4,000 price reduction on the same vehicle a year ago. The new sticker price is $29,995 including shipping—but not including federal tax credits of up to $7,500 and state incentives that might effectively knock another $2,500 off the amount buyers pay.

Obviously, Ford wouldn’t be instituting such dramatic price cuts if the Focus Electric was selling well, and part of the reason sales have been poor is that the model doesn’t stand out in an increasingly crowded field of midlevel-priced plug-ins where the Nissan Leaf, the pioneer in the category, remains the indisputable leader. Another reason for underwhelming sales of the Focus Electric—and for many alternative-fuel cars in general, for that matter—is simply that gas prices have been getting cheaper and cheaper.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average for a gallon of regular was just under $3.10 on Tuesday, compared with $3.35 a year ago and around $3.70 this past spring. Gas prices for the year as a whole are down slightly compared with 2013, and projections call for continued lower prices in 2015. All of which hurts automakers’ efforts to convince buyers that it’s a savvy move to pay a premium over a standard gas-powered vehicle for a hybrid or electric car right now, with the anticipation that they’d more than make up the difference later on in the form of savings on gas.

To help sales, automakers have been trying mightily to make the difference in price between alternative-fuel cars and their traditional car counterparts disappear. Nissan slashed the price of the Leaf in early 2013, effectively bringing the takeaway price of the vehicle under the $20,000 mark. Leaf sales have been strong throughout 2014, up 23% year over year thus far. Ford Focus Electric sales are up in the U.S. as well, with September units sold up 60% compared with the same month last year. Even so, we’re talking about extremely small numbers: 176 Focus Electrics sold last month, versus only 110 for September 2013.

What’s especially noteworthy is that the combination of lower gas prices and increasingly fuel-efficient internal-combustion engine cars appears to be putting the squeeze in particular on hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. According to Toyota data, 14,277 Priuses were sold in the U.S. last month, compared with 15,890 for September 2013. For the year thus far, Prius sales are down 11.4% compared with the same period a year ago—and mind you, this slump took place a time when Toyota sales overall are up 5.7%. By far the worst-performing Prius has been the plug-in PHV; only 353 sold in September, a decline of 71% versus the same month a year ago (1,152). As for hybrid sales overall, a total of 31,385 units sold in the U.S. in September 2014, a decrease of 35% from the previous month, and a decline of 6.5% from the same month in 2013.

Bear in mind that the hybrid sales slump has occurred while automakers have gotten more aggressive with discounts. As Automotive News lately noted about the struggles of alternative-fuel cars:

Data from KBB.com show that Toyota boosted Prius incentives to $2,300 per vehicle in September from $1,400 a year ago while Ford ramped up C-Max spiffs to $4,900 from $2,650 per vehicle in the same period; neither move helped sales.

So cheaper gas prices benefit drivers not only in terms of the obvious—cheaper gas prices—but also because they’re forcing automakers to slash prices on hybrids and electric cars that boast savings on gas as a primary sales pitch.

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