Americans finally getting over that new car smell

Every personal finance expert worth his salt has been saying the same thing forever: It is never, ever, ever a financially-sound decision to buy a new car.

It took a recession and a lot of pain for it to happen, but it turns out a lot of people are finally figuring this out. With new car sales down nearly 50% from their peak, some industry observers are predicting that while the market will certainly rebound somewhat, there may also be a long-term shift toward used cars.

The industry is worried, and so are politicians: The whole point of the bailouts and TARP efforts to make car loans available to people with shaky credit is that the U.S. economy is so consumption-driven that we need people going out buying new cars that they absolutely can't afford.