The automobile industry directly influences the economies of the United States and other countries around the world. In a typical year, the U.S. automobile industry generates between 12 and 14 percent of manufacturers' shipments of durable goods (products designed to last at least three years). Automobile production consumes large amounts of iron, steel, aluminum, and natural rubber. The automobile industry also consumes more copper, glass, zinc, leather, plastic, lead, and platinum than any other U.S. industry.
Rising imported car sales in the United States during the 1980s threatened the economic strength of U.S. automakers, but domestic sales rebounded in the 1990s. U.S. import sales declined from 31 percent of the total car market in 1987 to 22.8 percent in 2000. With fewer imported and more domestic car sales, the U.S. auto industry has experienced strong job growth. In 2000 the automotive industry accounted for 9 percent of all U.S. jobs producing durable goods, the highest level since 1979. Automobile production workers earned compensation averaging $17.48 an hour—a 25 percent increase since 1990 and among the highest rates paid to any manufacturers of durable goods.