Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My bit about SUVs

We just love our SUVs, I should know, I own two and love them both!

There is much diatribe in the papers as to why this is.  There is much social commentary as to why this is and mostly why it shouldn’t be.  It’s all bullshit.

The simple truth is twofold: our beloved Canadian winter and our hated politicians.

I travelled to the United States on a regular basis in my old job, and often for vacation.  My interest in cars being legendary I was wont to check out the automotive scenery.  To my great surprise, many a vehicle in the U.S. is different and there are more models of each.  

For eons I thought the same cars and trucks were marketed throughout the Americas.  I was wrong, more to the point, there exists such a beast as a 2-wheel drive 4x4!  To wit, the Toyota 4Runner - read: “four” runner - can actually be purchased as a 2 wheel-rear-drive automobile in the U.S.  

Immediately I was thinking to myself, why in the name of many things holy, would anyone possibly want to buy a 4x4 in 2-wheel-drive format?  Then it occurred to me, as I was lounging about on the warm sand, at a warm beach, with warm wind blowing, that maybe it just doesn’t get all that cold down here.   Revelation #1: Not all places exist in 4 feet of snow for ½ a year at a time.  Location becomes important, indeed the question would then be: why would anyone by 4x4 where there is no snow.  NoA: off-road use notwithstanding in this discussion.

I thought it brilliant that a vehicle be adapted to its market locale, thus we explain the 4x4 in Canada. Snow.

The issue of size is almost religion, but I’ll take a swing at it anyway.  Some drivers like small cars for many factors, not the least of which being fear, and control.  Some drivers like bigger cars for many factors, not the least of which being fear, and comfortable ride.  
Some drivers will put up with being uncomfortable when driving, others will not.  One trades comfort for fuel economy for example, another will not.  Some people will want a manageable and small car size while others can manage bigger.  Those that drive mostly highway will want something heavy that doesn’t jump around in a crosswind. All this is hotly debated in newspapers where no one can agree.  Hmm, maybe this is why we have so many models of cars to choose from?

Winter will bring about heavy and bulky threads.  No matter who you are, in a smaller car, with a passenger in the front seat, the place becomes crowded.  Some smaller folk especially will find this to be a minor inconvenience, for other bigger people it’s downright unbearable.

The typical mid-range SUV is actually smaller than a mid-range car of the 1980s.  People haven’t physically changed, if anything obesity is spreading, but their cars have gotten ever smaller because of the green freak’s social pressure untoward the government.  What did we think was going to happen?  Back in 1973 during the first OPEC fuel crisis, people were compelled to move to smaller more fuel-efficient cars.  Most would put up with the lack of room because the pocket book was that much lighter, or simply stay home.

Revelation #2: There is a minimum amount of space that people on average are ready to put up with.  Right now, the vehicle type that has this minimum space, again on average, and looks good is the SUV and larger sedans like the Nissan Altima.  

None of the sedans come in 4x4 though, except maybe the new Ford 500.

The green freaks and those contemptible government representatives try to push cars like the Smart on us.  Fucking thing doesn’t even have enough room for a guitar in the back!  I’m willing to place even money that these will sell great during the summer but not at all during our winter months when people realize they can’t close the doors while wearing their Canuck –40deg fleece & down lined jackets.

Anyway, the real solution has never been a smaller car, nor has it been in public transit, by the way.

We have created a pattern of society that requires transportation.  We have two choices, either change society or adapt the transport.   We have too much invested in society it won’t change.  A debate could be had as to whether it even should be.

Changing transport is a simple matter however.  

Generations of inventors, engineers and the like have created plans, draughts and even prototypes for alternate transportation mediums.  Alternate power sources have captured recent interest.  Why haven’t these projects come to pass?

The fuel companies hold these plans secret.  They have bought and bribed these plans and prototypes out of public view.  What happened with all the new ideas out of the Worlds Fair in 1967?  If the auto companies had been able to invest in these alternate solutions back in 1973, during the fuel crisis, with government backing, imagine where we would be today.   Kyoto would still be a big town in Japan as opposed to a four-letter word of my vocabulary against activists.

Renewable-power, and properly sized, automobile would be common if we’d started on this 30 years ago.  That is thirty, count ‘em 30, years of research and development LOST! An SUV would be a laudable vehicle, with the added winter-borne safety of 4x4 instead of being much maligned by ignorants.

This may yet come to pass, as the opportunity is presenting itself again, but it won’t be without pain.  The fuel companies are not about to lose the revenue, not if they can help it.  Fuel prices will either soar to make one last play into their coffers, or they will reduce prices again to keep us pinned down with an untenable business case for renewable energized cars.

The government stands to lose billions in lost fuel taxes so they are in no hurry to curtail the use of fossil fuels.  They play a good game, as long as revenue doesn’t diminish, or until the revenue can be replaced.    This is really the essence of the problem:  the government is not forecasting and plying the future for our betterment, which they should be.  And worse, Kyoto will apply to, and hammer, only the consumer who will foot the bill yet again.

The only allies we have are the automobile companies, as they have proven in the past, will adapt or outright produce a vehicle as per the market demand.  Their problem remains in their biggest natural partner today being the fuel industry.

So what are we really demanding: a ban on the SUV or a renewable-energy-driven SUV?


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