Cars premiered on May 26, 2006 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina and was theatrically released on June 9, 2006, to positive reviews. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was released on DVD on November 7, 2006 and to Blu-ray Disc in late 2007. Related merchandise, including scale models of several of the cars, broke records for retail sales of merchandise based on a Disney·Pixar film, bringing an estimated $10 billion in 5 years since the film's release. The film was dedicated to Joe Ranft, who was killed in a car accident during the film's production.
A sequel, Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011, and a spin-off, Planes, produced by DisneyToon Studios, was released on August 9, 2013. A series of short animated films entitled Cars Toons has been airing since 2008.
In a world populated by anthropomorphic vehicles, the last race of the Piston Cup championship ends in a three-way tie between retiring veteran Strip "The King" Weathers, infamous runner-up Chick Hicks, and rookie Lightning McQueen. The tiebreaker race is scheduled for one week later at the (fictional) Los Angeles International Speedway in California. Lightning is desperate to win the race, since it would allow him to leave the unglamorous sponsorship of Rust-Eze, a rust treatment for old cars, and allow him to take The King's place as the sponsored car of the lucrative Dinoco team. Eager to start practice in California as soon as possible, he pushes his big rig, Mack, to travel all night long. While McQueen is sleeping, the exhausted Mack drifts off and is startled by a gang of four reckless street racers, causing McQueen to fall out the back of the trailer and onto the road. McQueen wakes in the middle of traffic and speeds off the highway to find Mack, only to end up in the run-down desert town of Radiator Springs, while inadvertently ruining the pavement of its main road.
After being arrested and impounded overnight (while guarded by a rusty, but friendly, tow truck named Mater), McQueen is ordered by the town judge, Doc Hudson, to leave town immediately. The local lawyer Sally Carrera requests that McQueen should instead be given community service to repave the road, to which Doc reluctantly agrees. McQueen tries to repave it in a single day, but it turns out to be shoddy and he is ordered to repave the road again, which takes several days to complete. During this time, he becomes friends with several of the cars, and learns that Radiator Springs used to be a popular stopover along the old U.S. Route 66, but with the construction of Interstate 40 bypassing it, the town literally vanished from the map. McQueen also discovers that Doc is really the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet", a three-time Piston Cup winner who was forced out of racing after an accident in 1954 and quickly forgotten by the sport. McQueen finishes the road, which has invigorated the cars to improve their town, and spends an extra day in town with his new friends, before Mack and the media descend on the town, led by a tip to McQueen's location. McQueen reluctantly leaves with the media to get to California in time for the race, while Sally chastises Doc after discovering that he had tipped off the media to McQueen's whereabouts, not wanting to be discovered by them instead.
At the speedway, McQueen's mind is not fully set on the race, and he soon falls into last place. He is surprised to discover that Doc Hudson, who is decked out in his old racing colors, has taken over as his crew chief, along with several other friends from Radiator Springs to help in the pit. Inspired and recalling tricks he learned from Doc and his friends, McQueen quickly emerges to lead the race into the final laps. Refusing to lose, Hicks sends Weathers into a dangerous spin, causing him to have an accident. Seeing this and recalling Doc's fate, McQueen stops just short of the finish line, allowing Hicks to win, and drives back to push Weathers over the finish line. The crowd and media condemn Hicks' victory and give praise to McQueen's sportsmanship. Though offered the Dinoco sponsorship deal, McQueen declines, insisting on staying with his current sponsors as an appreciation of their past support. Later, back at Radiator Springs, McQueen returns and announces that he will be setting up his headquarters there, helping to put Radiator Springs back on the map.
- Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, described by John Lasseter in the LA Times as "A hybrid between a stock car and a more curvaceous Le Mans endurance racer."
- Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet who is later revealed to be the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.
- Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, a 2002 996-series Porsche 911 Carrera.
- Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, a 1951 International Harvester L-170 "boom" truck with elements of a mid-1950s Chevrolet. One-Ton Wrecker Tow Truck.
- Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500.
- Cheech Marin as Ramone, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala Lowrider.
- Michael Wallis as Sheriff, a 1949 Mercury Club Coupe (police package).
- George Carlin as Fillmore, a 1960 VW Bus.
- Paul Dooley as Sarge, a 1941 Willys model jeep, in the style used by the US Military.
- Jenifer Lewis as Flo, a 1957 Motorama show car.
- Guido Quaroni as Guido, a custom forklift, resembling an Isetta at the front.
- Richard Petty as Strip "The King" Weathers. The car's design was based on Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird
- Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks, described by Pixar as a generic 1980s stock car. Strongly resembles a 1978–88 General Motors G-Body such as a Buick Regal or Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
- Katherine Helmond as Lizzie, a 1923 Ford Model T.
- John Ratzenberger as Mack, a 1985 Mack Super-Liner.
- Joe Ranft as Red, a 1960s style fire truck (most closely resembles a mid-1960s) and Peterbilt, this was Ranft's last voice role before his death in August 2005.
- Jeremy Piven (US) / Clarkson (UK) as Harv, Lightning McQueen's agent, never seen on-screen.
- Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, is a 1999 Oldsmobile Aurora an announcer for the Piston Cup races and friend of Darrell Cartrip.
- Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip, a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo, is a Piston Cup announcer and the friend of Bob Cutlass.
- Humpy Wheeler as Tex Dinoco, is an 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville the owner of Dinoco.
- Lynda Petty as Lynda Weathers, a 1964–1967 station wagon is Strip Weathers's wife.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. as "Junior" #8,
- Michael Schumacher as Michael Schumacher,
- Tom and Ray Magliozzi as Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze, is a 1963 Dodge and a 1967 Dodge A100 and the owners of Rust-eze.
- Richard Kind and Edie McClurg as Van and Minny, is a 2003 Ford Windstar and a 1996 Dodge Caravan.
- Lindsey Collins and Elissa Knight as Mia and Tia, is a identical twin 1992 Mazda MX-5 ("Miata") sisters.
- Mario Andretti as Mario Andretti #11,
- DJ Sarah Clark as Kori Turbowitz, is a 1997 Ford Puma a news reporter.
- Frank Welker as Frank, is a combine harvester.
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Dave Foley reprise their vocal roles from previous Pixar films during an end-credits sequence featuring automobile spoofs of Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug's Life.
- Main article: Cars 2