The industrial revolution was paved with asphalt on which millions of automobiles thrust the American economy into the 20th century only to slowly decline by the end of it.
By 1946, 75 percent of all cars were produced inside the United States. By 2011, the amount of cars produced inside the US dropped to 11 percent. China has made significant strides to fill the gap, climbing from 3 percent in 1997 to 23 percent in 2011.
Likewise, the US manufacturing base has thinned out significantly. From 2006 to the height of the recession in 2009, the number of auto manufacturing jobs plummeted. It fell down from 1.04 million to 653 thousand.
Fortunately the industry has rebounded somewhat in the last few years. As auto sales have picked up so have the manufacturing jobs. Though still a far cry from the 2003 high of over 1.1 million jobs, the industry employed 786 thousand people in 2012.
The impact of fossil fuels has taken it's toll on the auto manufacturers too. Higher gas prices and concern for the environment have many consumers looking at less carbon-heavy options to get around.