Shell station gas pricesDo you remember 2008, when the cost of gas in the U.S. jumped to levels people just weren't ready for? When gas prices soared to $3.50 an above that year, we saw the U.S. public panic, and some changed their car-buying habits (for a while, at least).

The 2011 version could come when a gallon of gasoline exceeds $4.50, says Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). Taylor thinks $4.50 is when consumer interest will shift towards more fuel efficient-rides, and claims that gas prices must exceed the average American's comfort zone to have a noticeable impact on the automotive industry, stating:
Generally it takes a level that consumers have not seen before. Gasoline prices in excess of $4.50 per gallon are likely to have a more dramatic increase upon consumer choices.
Yesterday, March 7th, the average rate for a gallon of gas in the U.S. was $3.46. While that's more than a buck below Taylor's industry-changing $4.50 price, one glance at Gas Buddy's historical price rate chart seems to indicate that the cost of fuel will continue to rise, eventually hitting Taylor's tipping point.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req. | Image: micah.d – C.C. License 2.0]