Turns out, we snapped up around 1.4 million cars last month, an increase of around 9 percent over last year. That puts automakers on track to sell more than 16 million cars in 2014, the biggest auto sales number in eight years.
So what's going on?
One of the big reasons car sales are so high this year? Banks have discovered the sweet business that is the auto loan.
"Banks have realized that when recessions hit, people may stop paying their mortgage payments, because it takes so long to get thrown out of your house, but very few stop paying their car payment, because those are so easy to repossess and you have to get to work," says Larry Vellequette, with Automotive News in Detroit.
Carmakers have done their part to sweeten that pot, too. "For example Ram, on one of its trucks right now has a 0 percent financing offer for 72 months," says Vellequette. "I mean, six years of free money and no payments for 90 days. That’s… I mean, a really attractive offer."
It's an offer many consumers have been waiting for. The average car on the road is more than 11-years-old, an all-time high. That means there's a lot of pent-up demand right now.
"They’re coming out of this really depressing time, when we had the big financial crisis," says Thilo Koslowski, Vice President and Auto Practice leader at Gartner.
But cheap money and easy loans have some seeing signs of a bubble. "That's the $64,000 question right now," says Dan Picciotto, Senior Director at Standard and Poor's. He says the economic fundamentals of the industry seem solid, but, he says, the deep discounts and less-than-sterling loans needs to be kept in check. "Right now the industry is remaining relatively disciplined, but the track record of this industry is one where the risks emerge… It’s something that we continue to monitor."
The average incentive on a vehicle in July was more than $2,700, up 7 percent from last year.
A British artist by the name of Lucy Sparrow - whose bio says she "sets the agenda for textiles within the urban art scene" - has created something called "The Cornershop."
It's being billed as the "fluffiest, furriest shopping experience imaginable." You walk into what was an abandoned store, and everything that you might find in a convenience store - and I mean everything - is there, but it's made entirely out of felt.
She's sewn felt newspapers...
...even felt Prozac...
She spent seven months doing this, and it really does look amazing. You can see some more pictures taken by the Mirror in the UK. The store will be up for a month, and each of these 4,000 or so felt objects is for sale.
Two ingredients. That’s all Procter & Gamble needed to launch its enormous brand empire.
“Fat and oils," says Davis Dyer, co-author of "Rising Tide: Lessons from 165 Years of Brand Building at Procter & Gamble." "Originally, those were the key ingredients of soap."
Ivory, to be exact. Dyer says P&G worked business magic at the time by branding a commodity like soap. After that, the company used its technology and those key ingredients to develop other products like shortening, peanut butter and detergents. The rest is classic corporate history, but now P&G is getting rid of lots of the brands it worked so hard to build.
“I’m actually surprised it’s taken this long," says Barbara Kahn, a professor of marketing at Wharton. She points out the company has a lot of redundant products, like shampoo. P&G doesn't just make Head & Shoulders, but also Herbal Essences, Pantene and Vidal Sassoon.
"At one time that made a lot of sense," Kahn says, "because it allowed them to appeal to different segments. It allowed them to get more shelf space."
Kahn notes reaching audiences in the last century was a lot easier than it is now, when consumers' attention spans have splintered. It used to be much easier to build brand awareness.
“There used to be three networks, and everybody watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday night,” Kahn says.
Morningstar senior equity analyst Erin Lash says more problems face today's marketers, like today's increasingly global market.
“Some of their struggles, at this point, may have resulted from the fact that they have maybe tried to get into or tried to play in too many categories, in too many regions,” she says.
Tastes and preferences vary, says Lash. You can’t always take a product, like razors, that work in the U.S. and easily transport it to an emerging market.
Procter & Gamble hasn’t announced which brands it will be shaving away, but it says the products it’s holding on to account for almost all of its profit.
The world of brands at Procter & Gamble
The monthly jobs report showed Friday that the U.S. economy gained 209,000 jobs in July. That's a decrease from the 298,000 added in June, but the overall trend still suggests the economy's on a slow but steady jobs recovery.
Still, when it comes to jobs in the U.S., the question is not just of quantity but quality. And in the quality department, there's a long way to go. Average wages are growing at about 2 percent a year, barely enough to keep up with inflation.
Stagnating wages aren't that surprising in an economy slowly plodding out of recession, where there aren't enough jobs to go around and the number of long-term unemployed Americans has stalled at 3.2 million.
"If you're an employer, you've got many applicants for a job. Some people have been out of work for quite some time and are quite desperate," says Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR, a financial consulting firm. That means employers "don't have to bid up wages to attract qualified people," Shapiro says.
Sure, wages are still growing fairly rapidly in some specialized fields like computer programming or engineering, which face a shortage of skilled workers. But wages are not accelerating for the "the broad, garden-variety worker," Shapiro says.
Wage growth should eventually accelerate, at least a little, if the economy continues to add jobs and labor markets tighten. But, beyond those supply and demand dynamics, there are deeper forces working against wage growth that got started long before the great recession, including the declining power of unions and the increasingly globalized economy.
"The sheltered economy that the U.S. had after World War II, which allowed us to have high wages and high benefits, is now being tamped down by countries with cheaper wages competing against American manufacturers," says Joseph Blasi, a professor of management at Rutgers University.
It's not just manufacturing that's feeling the pressures of globalization. Companies are increasingly outsourcing white-collar jobs like paralegals and architectural draftsmen. Meanwhile, many of the service jobs that still can't be sent overseas — like stocking shelves or flipping hamburgers — have traditionally paid low wages to begin with.
Damon Silvers, policy director for the AFL-CIO, says workers in those industries have started to demand higher wages but are struggling with confidence.
"Decades of anti-worker policies, and on top of that a profound economic crisis, have really put American workers through an experience of powerlessness," Silvers says. "Everything you see going on right now, in terms of worker protests at Walmart, at fast foods, even those people kind of want to know: is this going to work?"
One way or another, says Shapiro, we should all hope that wages will rise eventually for workers. "Because that's who buys stuff."
And buying stuff is what ultimately keeps our economy running.
The controversial death of Eric Garner was captured in a video that showed his confrontation with police on a Staten Island sidewalk.
Like the U.S., Mexico is struggling with a surge in illegal migrants. Mexico criticizes how the U.S. treats its migrants. But it faces similar criticism from Central American migrants in Mexico.
Nearly a dozen notebooks and journals by the author, who fought in the British Army during the war, are being released to coincide with the centenary of the start of the conflict.
Access to lactation specialists is slowly improving in the U.S., according to a CDC survey. And that can help many women who want to breast-feed stick with it longer, health officials say.