Gasoline prices are bouncing around $2 a gallon, with some higher and some lower.
It looks like the price has grabbed the public's attention, but how high does the price of gasoline have to go before U.S. consumers will change their buying habits?
Research has been done on that topic, but it's worthless without real-world conditions. How do you get people to predict how they'll feel about buying a particular type of vehicle, based on fuel costs, without the situation being real?
Well, it's real now. Prices have gone up, although it doesn't seem as though they will stay there over the long haul - say, six months or a year.
Americans won't change their buying habits until fuel prices rise a lot more. Gasoline will have to be more than $3 a gallon to get folks to trade in their gas guzzlers and get something more fuel efficient.
At those prices, which would be close to European fuel prices, even the diesel begins to look attractive - but not yet.
One thing that would affect car and truck sales overnight is a disruption in the supply of fuel. If we no longer could buy all the fuel we wanted, at any price, buying patterns for cars and trucks would change overnight.
During the two oil crises in the 1970s, the real problem was the shortage of fuel. When we were able to buy only eight gallons or so of gasoline at a time, car and truck sales stalled, but sales of gas guzzlers came to a screeching halt.
All of a sudden, people were interested in "range," the number of miles a car could travel on a tank of fuel.
When the crisis ended, people returned to their old buying habits.
We might have another chance to find out at what price Americans will change their buying habits.
It will be a little more complicated this time because we're facing a war and are suffering from an economic downturn.
It will be interesting to watch what happens.
Many currents are running through our country right now, and all of them will have some effect on the sales of cars and trucks.
Let's hope that none has any lasting impact.