By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After five years of steady recovery, the US auto industry is on a seemingly unstoppable roll. With the cost of a barrel of crude falling off at a rate harkening back to the 1986 oil market collapse, consumers have more spending power and are buying new vehicles at a rate not seen since the earliest years of the post-millennium boom.

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In November, US auto sales reached an annualized rate of 17.1 million units which, if sustained, translates into nearly 6 percent of Americans buying a new car every year – an astounding economic benchmark!

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Overwhelmingly, Americans are buying smart new variants of the SUV. Now, instead of lumbering gas-guzzlers the marketplace is full of fuel-efficient and astutely designed crossovers like the Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Rav4 and the Honda CR-V.

Even the big gas-powered Chevy, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota pick-ups and full sized SUVs, which are the biggest overall sellers, are getting mileage well into the 20 mpg range and offer premium amenities and superior quality.

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From economy cars to super luxury exotics…we may be witnessing the new golden age of automobiles!