Audi's night vision assistant, an example of how car companies are making cars that are part of drivers' digital lives. Courtesy of Audi hide caption

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To teens today, cars aren't important in the same way they were in American Graffiti, the 1973 film directed by George Lucas. Lucasfilm/Coppola Co/Universal hide caption

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Employment Specialist Louis Holliday, right, helps an applicant file for unemployment at a Georgia Department of Labor career center last month in Atlanta. The jobless rate for African-Americans fell from 13.7 to 12.6 percent in July, but that's still twice the rate for whites. David Goldman/AP hide caption

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A version of Ford's flagship F-150 pickup truck that runs on natural gas. Courtesy of Ford Motor Company hide caption

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Woodward Avenue runs through Midtown, a Detroit neighborhood that is reviving in the midst of the larger city's decline. In the background is downtown Detroit. Carlos Osorio/AP hide caption

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Jeff Caldwell, a chassis assembly line supervisor, checks a vehicle on the assembly line at the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit on May 8. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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Kids play with toy cars like the Cozy Coupe partly because they want to imitate their parents: turn a steering wheel, open a door, strap a Christmas tree to the roof. But toy cars aren't just fun and games; they can suggest future trends in the automobile industry. Frank Guido/Flickr hide caption

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A worker installs parts on a Chrysler SUV engine at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. Plants in the U.S. are now operating above 90 percent capacity, but automakers are wary of adding large numbers of new workers. Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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