The idea isn't coming out of Detroit, but maybe America's automakers will again copy the Japanese and learn how to make a profit by making a pet-friendly car.

Honda Motor Co. recently unveiled the pet friendly version of its Element utility vehicle at the New York Auto Show, according to a Reuters story. It will have a cushioned dog bed in the trunk, a built-in water bowl and fan, and a ramp to help less agile dogs climb in.

It also has easy-wash seat covers, a fitted dog bed with restraints to keep the pet safe in a crash, and a paw logo on the side. The car is set to go on sale across the United States in the fall.

With Americans spending $41 billion a year on their pets, and forecast to increase to $52 billion in two years, Honda looks to be on the right track.

Honda hasn't determined yet how much the pet friendly features will add to the $20,000 price tag of the Element.

I have a dog and while I wouldn't buy a dog-friendly car, it would be nice if car companies or someone sold something that prevented the dog hair from swirling around the car while driving with the windows down. My dog sheds, as most do, and that's a problem I doubt that even the Japanese can solve.

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