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1st Gear: Ford Hybrids Aren't As Thrifty As Ford Claims
Consumer Reports says there's anecdotal evidence that Ford's new hybrids aren't meeting the company's estimated 47 miles per gallon. Although its engineers haven't finished tests, CR says the trip computer in the C-Max is hovering between 33 and 39 mpg, while the Fusion is coming in around 40 mpg. That corroborates news reports that owners are complaining they aren't hitting the 47 mpg mark, either. As the owner of a hybrid, I can attest that fuel economy fluctuates according to temperature, driving conditions and speed. But you should pretty much expect to get something close to what the company is promising. The Ford mpg reports come just after the Environmental Protection Agency forced Hyundai to restate the fuel economy on its cars.

2nd Gear: BMW-Mercedes Race Is Going Down To The Wire
Bloomberg reports that Mercedes' lead over BMW in the luxury car race got slimmer in November, which probably means we're in for a nail biter when year-end sales numbers come in. Mercedes is now just 1,849 vehicles ahead of BMW, which essentially is a rounding error. It looks like one of the two German automakers will take the crown, although Lexus has picked up some steam this fall. "You got some very aggressive year-end pushes going on, especially on the luxury end, where there is one hell of a race going on," Paul Ballew, chief economist at Dun & Bradstreet in Short Hills, N.J., told Bloomberg. The numbers don't include Mini for BMW or Smart for Mercedes, since those aren't luxury cars. December could get a bump because of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which is starting to have an impact on sales, especially on the East Coast.

3rd Gear: Buick Puts Its Encore In Headphones
You know those Bose noise canceling headphones that you see a lot of people take on airplanes? Buick says it's borrowing Bose technology to make the Encore crossover quiet inside. It is the first time Buick has used Bose Active Noise Cancellation. "Like the popular headphones used by business travelers on airplanes, this system uses small microphones to gather and analyze sound information that's then used to project noise-canceling' sound waves through the cabin," Buick says. The system will target engine noise, "while allowing pleasant notes to pass through the cabin." The result, it says, is a "luxurious and muted, yet still engaging" experience. Encore is due at dealerships early next year, starting at $24,950.

4th Gear: The Flying Brassiere Might Get A Boost
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) reports that hotelier Andre Balazs is in talks with the Port Authority to build a luxury hotel in the TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport. It's that futuristic, but empty little space age terminal that sits on the airport's ground. Those of us who grew up in the airline industry have always called it the "flying brassiere" and we've all been waiting for years for somebody to find a use for it. The terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, opened in 1962 and became obsolete in 2001, when TWA filed for bankruptcy and was absorbed by American Airlines. The Port Authority has spent $20 million on restoration and the terminal is linked to JetBlue's operations. But there's a theory that it could be put to better use than just as an objet d'art.

Reverse: Pan Am Waves Farewell
On this day in 1991, Pan American World Airways flew its last scheduled flight. The plane was a Boeing 727, which started the day in New York, went to Miami and flew on to Barbados. (That's not it in the video, that's a 747.) As the captain arrived there, airport officials told him that the airline was about to shut down, and he needed to return to Miami. The plane took Pan Am personnel with it. Now, the Blue Meatball is remembered for hipster replica totebags, a not very good TV show, and its distinctive uniforms, which some say were the epitome of airline glamour. [Michael Manning Blogspot]


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Today, what do you think of Consumer Reports' criticism that the Ford hybrids aren't hitting the company's mpg targets? Is that a problem, or do consumers understand that fuel economy can vary? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.

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