February 11, 2005

The coming SUV Backlash

Well, at least I hope it's coming. I sit in the parking lot at work and see SUVs, Jeeps, and other comically large vehicles all over the place. Mind you, this is in the capital of North Carolina, where it rarely snows, the terrain is tame, and the roads are pretty much all paved, especially in Cary, the upscale suburb where the office is located. I cannot even begin to imagine what makes a person decide that he needs to drive a four wheel drive behemoth back and forth to work everyday to the tune of 14 miles a gallon.

I really do hope that the SUV trend starts to fade, and for a couple of reasons. First, all these giant vehicles clog up parking lots and roads due to their sheer girth. Secondly, and most important, the horrendous fuel economy and pollution is starting to get out of hand. Now, I'm nobody's idea of a tree hugger, but I am starting to become a bigger stickler on efficiency, to a point. You won't find me driving a diesel Jetter or anything, and I won't be purchasing a hybrid until it makes better economic sense, but it seems a little common sense is in order. There are a lot of vehicles on the road today that average over 25 miles per gallon, or are at least approaching it. Most of these cars would suit your average Ford Explorer driving engineer just fine.

That's really the rub with me. These vehicles are so unnecessary as to absurdity. Someone was talking about a person they worked with that bought an SUV because flats of flowers couldn't fit in his convertible. You have got to be kidding me. He wants to cart around flowers, and he decided this warranted a four wheel drive monster. I guarantee your average four door sedan, and probably a lot of two doors, could carry pretty much as many flats of flowers as this man would ever want to plant. This continues on with people who say they bought an SUV to cart their kids around. A lot of these people don't have a whole lot of kids to cart. I don't think there's any way to justify a six or seven passenger grocery getter, unless you happen to need six or seven seats.

Like I said before, gratuitous fuel consumption is the main issue here. The Ford Explorer gets 16 miles per gallon in the city, and people are commuting in these things. This isn't lifeguards patrolling the beaches, it's accountants, schoolteachers, engineers, and doctors driving to work each day. With oil prices so high and a large chunk of the world's oil coming from politically unstable (or downright corrupt) areas, it would be better if the American economy could become less dependent on foreign oil. The need will never go away, since oil fuels much of our country, but a lower dependence on oil will help the United States have more flexibility going forward. It will depend on the people to lower the demand for gas-guzzling vehicles, because the automakers will continue to build them if people continue to buy them.

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