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A more experimental album, Panorama, was released in 1980, charting only one Top 40 hit with "Touch and Go". Rolling Stone described the album as "an out-and-out drag". In 1981, the Cars purchased Intermedia Studios in Boston, renaming it Syncro Sound.The only Cars album recorded there was Shake It Up. It was their first album to spawn a top 10 single with the title track, and included another hit "Since You’re Gone". Following their 1982 tour, the Cars took a short break and went to work on solo projects, with Ocasek and Hawkes both releasing debut albums (Beatitude and Niagara Falls, respectively).
The Cars re-united and released their most successful album, Heartbeat City, in 1984. The first single, "You Might Think", helped The Cars win Video of the Year at the first MTV Video Music Awards. Other hit singles from the album included "Magic", "Hello Again", and "Why Can’t I Have You". Their most successful single, "Drive", gained particular notability when it was used in a video of the Ethiopian famine prepared by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and introduced by David Bowie at the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London (The Cars themselves performed in the Philadelphia Live Aid concert). Actor/director Timothy Hutton directed the band's 1984 "Drive" music video.
Greatest Hits, Door to Door and break-up (1985–1988)
After the resulting period of superstardom and another hit single, "Tonight She Comes", a No. 7 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart (their last No. 1), from their Greatest Hits, the Cars took time off again to pursue solo projects. Easton and Orr released their debut albums (Change No Change and The Lace, respectively), while Ocasek released his second solo album, This Side of Paradise. In 1987, the Cars released their sixth album, Door to Door. It contained their last major international hit, "You Are the Girl", but the album failed to approach the success of their previous albums. They announced the group's breakup in February 1988.Post break-up and solo careers (1989–2009)
In the late 1990s, rumors circulated of a Cars reunion, with no results. However, in 1995 Rhino Records released a 2-CD set Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, containing all the group's hits mixed with rarities (demos, non-album b-sides). They followed up with the releases of The Cars: Deluxe Edition (1999), their debut album in 2-CD format, and Complete Greatest Hits.
In the mid 1990s, Orr recorded tracks with guitarist John Kalishes for an unreleased follow-up to The Lace and performed with three bands, his own band "ORR", The Voices of Classic Rock, and Big People. Orr did appear with his former bandmates one last time in an interview for a documentary about the group prior to his death from pancreatic cancer in 2000.
Ocasek continued to perform as a solo artist, having released over seven studio albums. Robinson retired from music and spent most of his time working in his restaurant. In 2005, Easton and Hawkes combined their talents with Todd Rundgren, Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Utopia), and Kasim Sulton (Utopia, Meat Loaf) in a revamped lineup, The New Cars, to perform classic Cars songs along with selections from Rundgren's solo work and some new original material.
In 2008, the band's first album was released for the video game Rock BandReunion and Move Like This (2010–present)
In 2010, the founding members of The Cars suggested a reunion when Ric Ocasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes and David Robinson placed a photo of the four members together in Millbrook Sound Studios, Millbrook, NY on their Facebook page. On October 13, they also posted a snippet of a new song, "Blue Tip", on their Facebook page. A picture of Jacknife Lee in the studio was posted on the group's Facebook page hinting that he would be producing the new Cars album.In October Billboard reported that a new album which may be supported by a tour is being recorded at veteran engineer Paul Orofino's studio in Millbrook, New York. A music clip of a new song, called "Sad Song", was added to the band's Facebook page on December 7, 2010; another clip of a song called "Free" was shared on their Facebook page on January 1, 2011. The official debut video for "Blue Tip" was released February 17, 2011. The video was directed by Roberto Serrini and Eron Otcasek from The Lab NYC and features the four members of the band, and NYC based street artist Joe Iurato. According to Rolling Stone, the surviving Cars mutually agreed there would be no replacing the late Benjamin Orr, so Hawkes and Lee handled all bass parts.The new album, titled Move Like This, was released on May 10 by Hear Music/Concord Music Group, debuting at No. 7 on Billboard's album charts. The album's first single, "Sad Song", was released to radio stations March 1. In April 2011, The Cars announced a ten-city tour of the United States and Canada to start in May 2011.The Cars have used genres that spanned through all of rock and pop music, including new wave, pop rock, protopunk, garage rock, and bubblegum pop. They have also used rockabilly in songs such as "My Best Friend's Girl".Robert Palmer, music critic for The New York Times and Rolling Stone, described The Cars' musical style by saying: "they have taken some important but disparate contemporary trends—punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the '50s rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop—and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend."They have also had hard rock-oriented songs including "You're All I've Got Tonight".