One reason U.S. auto sales still aren't quite back to the 17 million-a-year pace seen during the boom years before the recession: Many consumers, including most UAW members and many other blue-collar workers, haven't gotten much of a raise since then.
Stagnant wages have made buying a new vehicle more difficult as the price tags keep rising, forcing some people with tight budgets to hold off longer, browse the used-car lot instead or take out a longer loan to reduce their monthly payment.
Economists and dealers say shoppers don't fear losing their jobs as much anymore but often can't afford much more than what they already were paying on their trade-in.
"Although unemployment's low, I don't think we've seen much growth in wages," said John McEleney, owner of McEleney Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Toyota in Clinton, Iowa. "That all factors into a big purchase like an automobile."
Overall, the market is growing, though not as quickly as it has every year since 2009. Across the country, new-vehicle sales have risen 6 percent this year. Automakers are on track to sell at least 16.4 million vehicles for 2014, which would be the most since 2006.
But retail deliveries, based on registration data from IHS Automotive through September, have fallen this year in Iowa and 12 other states. Income growth in the past year has been below the national average in all but two of those 13 states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In contrast, states in which retail registrations have increased the most this year generally had above-average income growth during the most recent three quarters for which data are available, a period ending June 30. That was true in nine of the 13 states where auto sales have grown the fastest.
On average, new-vehicle registrations increased by 5 percent in the 22 states with above-average in- come growth but just 2 percent in the 28 states with below-average income growth.