Can Consumers Afford the Cars We’re Building?


NBC News - February 27, 2013

A recent afford­abil­ity study by indi­cates the median Amer­i­can house­hold income would not include the pur­chase of a new vehi­cle right now.

Find out what else the study revealed.

The typ­i­cal new vehi­cle is now more expen­sive than ever, aver­ag­ing $30,500 in 2012, accord­ing to data, and head­ing up again as mak­ers curb the incen­tives that helped make their prod­ucts more afford­able dur­ing the reces­sion when they were des­per­ate for sales.

Accord­ing to the 2013 Car Afford­abil­ity Study by, only in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., could the typ­i­cal house­hold swing the pay­ments, the median income there run­ning $86,680 a year. At the other extreme, Tampa was at the bot­tom of the 25 large cities included in the study, with a median house­hold income of $43,832.

Afford­abil­ity has been a mat­ter of grow­ing con­cern for the auto indus­try in recent years as prices have con­tin­ued to move upward. Even the most basic of today’s cars are gen­er­ally loaded with fea­tures that were once found on high-line mod­els a few decades back – if they were avail­able at all – such as air con­di­tion­ing, power win­dows, airbags and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, as well as dig­i­tal info­tain­ment sys­tems. They also have to meet ever tougher fed­eral safety, emis­sions and mileage stan­dards that have added thou­sands to the typ­i­cal price tag.