Well that's just it. People today aren't being rewarded for the work like they were back in the 1950s-early-1990s. That's why most Americans could afford good houses and big, nice, and luxurious cars. People today work more hours and get paid less; not to mention that they usually receive no benefits or vacations either.
The sad part is that with every passing year, less and less Americans and Europeans are being able to afford nice things. The recession isn't helping, but that's only part of the problem. When we get out of this recession, it won't be like the 1960s-1980s with people making good money, paying cheap gas prices, and buying nice stuff. The jobs that will be created will mostly be lower end stuff that pays mediocre wages, and people will still be stuck with $4 a gallon fuel.
The bottom line is that, unless you are a well to do American making over $150,000 a year, you are effectively screwed for the oncoming decades and will not be able to drive nice vehicles. And because most Americans make much less than that, we're basically the last generation that will get to experience the comforts of full-size luxury cars and cool sports cars and whatnot. The auto industry is continuing along the Toyota path, and will likely never build real luxury or sports vehicles again.
As a senior citizen who has driven dozens of cars over the years, including massive 4-mile-per-gallon land yachts, I honestly have no use for oversized and over powered vehicles anymore. My 4-cylinder midsized car is very comfortable, does 0-60 faster than our old Lincoln Town Cars, is way faster on the top end (governed to 120) and gets 38 miles per gallon on the highway. Why on Earth would I want to give up the power, speed, handling and fuel mileage of my current car for a slower and far less efficient large V-8 that offered no advantages whatsoever? Yes. I'd like to own one as a rarely driven hobby maybe, but never again as a daily driver.
Since you are likely to be making less, this is what I did. When I qualified for a new home, I didn't borrow the maximum to what the bank would lend me. I went half. Then you can do things and not be tapping into credit cards. And being squashed into a little beater to drive around in. It's not what you make, it's what you spend. I downsized myself, not work. And it's paid for. Utilities are less, commute is shorter. Many people want all house. If that's your thing, fine. I'd rather own my cars and home. And there are those that have 2 strong incomes coming in that can afford nice transportation. Maybe this isn't a fair comment, but most guys do not need a big new home. I like a balance of nice things, and can drive a nice car too.
Stop and consider what a "nice" house meant in the 1950s compared to what a "nice" house means today. In the 1950s, which people point to as the cream of living, a house might have been a thousand square feet or less. Now people feel as though they have a right to live in a 7,000 square-foot McMansion or they will be shown crying on a CNN special about poverty in America.
Also, compare the family car (singular) to the multiple cars owned by families today. People have leveraged themselves into debt by buying stuff that they have been told is supposed to make them happy, instead of living within their means and actually being happy. What an empty life it must be to define your personal value by the size of your flat screen TV or by whether your car has an SE or LX on the trunk.
There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things, but nobody "deserves" nice things. You earn them by being financially responsible and working hard. People no longer accept that if you want to be driving a Mercedes when you're 45, you may have to make the best of driving a a beater when you're 25, and bulking up those savings for 20 years. Immediate gratification is not the key to long-term happiness.
The EPA has nothing to do with destroying the middle class. It's their financial backers and the government itself. Understand that the so-called "green" movement is led by people who have very little actual scientific experience, just deep pockets and quotations from Marx.
And yes, we still have a decent selection of cheap cars to buy, but Europe doesn't. In fact, people are giving up driving there because the "budget" cars are so expensive. The Big Three know their customer base much better than the European manufacturers do, and we don't have all the regulations they do either.
And yes our energy prices are still low. However, democrats and some republicans don't think it's high enough. Obama's energy adviser Steven Chu once stated that he wanted gas prices to hit $8-10 a gallon like Europe. The green people keep the oil companies from drilling in oil-rich areas, which obviously keeps the price up.
Not only that, but understand also that about 1/3 or more of your gas prices are all state, federal, and even town taxes. In Europe, pretty much all of the $8 per gallon price tag is taxes. If the government lowered or eliminated these taxes, gas prices would see a huge reduction.
And the reason why China has all the smog isn't really because of cars (most ride bikes there). It's because China is developing their entire country and modernizing. Most of the fuel they burn comes from heavy industry; after all, it's a lot of work to go from a primitive agricultural farm nation to a heavily industrialized giant in a mere 25 years.
As has been said before, gas prices will eventually go up and up to unmanageable levels. We need people in office who actually understand the oil industry, not just feed us with crappy ideology about electric cars (they're so bad that Toyota killed off their electric car program). If the government had more people like that in office, things would be much better.
Even though we have owned quite a few, I have never understood the lure of driving super-sized cars. They are harder to park, slower and worse handling, tires cost much more, and they drink twice as much fuel. I am a big guy (240 pounds) and have not the slightest problem fitting comfortably in a sub-compact, let alone a mid-sized car. I see no point in surrounding myself with vast quantities of open space.
I'm sorry,but a small 4 cylinder front wheel drive compact will never put a smile on my face when I am driving it... If I'm going to be stuck in car commuting everyday, I may as well pay a little more for gas to be comfortable and feel safe from bad drivers in huge SUVs.
Sure, if saving money is all that matters, you can eat McDonalds everyday, or plain rice, but I would rather eat well, as you only live once. I have the same attitude about cars, no compromises.