Pain at the pump is the No. 1 automotive story of the last decade, according to a list released today by SPEED in conjunction with the motor sports and automotive lifestyle network’s 10th Anniversary.

U.S. gas prices soaring above $3 a gallon, and the corresponding fallout — an influx of “hybrid” vehicles, declining sales of monster-sized SUVs and a growing interest in fuel alternatives — was the top response from a group of automotive journalists and SPEED on-air automotive personalities, when asked about the most memorable consumer automotive stories of the last 10 years.

A look at the Top 10 stories (descriptions attached):

1. Gasoline tops $3 a gallon

2. Fall of domestic dominance

3. Dale Earnhardt crash at Daytona

4. Retro-inspired cars

5. eBay Motors

6. Barrett-Jackson Auctions

7. Ford vs. Firestone

8. Comeback of the Mini

9. Boom of the Supercars

10. “Trick”, “Dub”, “Pimp” and Whip”

“There’s no question the absence of cheap gasoline, once considered a virtual birthright among U.S. consumers, has fundamentally altered the buying and driving habits of Americans,” said SPEED motor sports and automotive writer Tom Jensen.

Coming in second, the fall of domestic dominance in auto sales is No. 2 on the list, with General Motors 51-percent U.S. market share in 1962 falling to 24 percent today. Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda have been the big winners, grabbing market share thanks to higher-mileage vehicles and reputations for quality and value.

“General Motors once was a symbol for American global dominance and excellence in engineering and marketing. Sadly, GM has become an automotive dinosaur, a case study of what happens when profits are put ahead of customer satisfaction and building great cars,” Jensen said.

And with all of the recent improvements in consumer automotive safety, it took the tragic death of NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt in 2001 to focus the world’s attention on safety at the race track. The result — more safety equipment, safer race cars and safer race tracks for fans in attendance.

“Dale Earnhardt’s death sent shock waves through the entire racing world, but especially NASCAR, where he was both the sport’s biggest star and a man regarded as the toughest ever to strap on a helmet,” said Jensen. “It was the kind of brutal wake-up call that forced NASCAR to redouble its safety efforts.”

SPEED, celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2006, is the nation’s first and foremost cable network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 71 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country, the home to NASCAR TV and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on-demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services.


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