Even as inflation is easing and global chip supply shortages are beginning to resolve, more Americans are being priced out of the nation’s new car market, industry and government data suggests. Spending on new cars by the lowest 20 percent of earners dropped to its lowest level in 11 years. Meanwhile, spending on new cars by the top 20 percent reached its highest level on record, going back to 1984, according to the most recent data from the 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey, not adjusted for inflation.

We know why this is happening: chip shortages, labor shortages, rising interest rates, bigger tastes for bigger cars, the need to shore up cash to transition to electric vehicles, and outright greed on the part of the car companies [Editor’s Note: One could also just call it smart business. Maximizing profit is any American company’s goal. -DT] just who run on margins and are raking in record profits. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to figure out if a bus pass is a better investment these days.

But what I wonder is, where does it end? Does it ever?

If the dealers can’t actually sell these comically overpriced cars—and the $100,000+ Grand Wagoneer is a great anecdote here—when do the automakers back off on pricing? Of course, that would mean fewer profits and shareholder returns, so I suppose it’s completely out of the question.