Why we buy SUVs - Jay Maynard

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Wednesday, 15 December 2004


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0924 - Why we buy SUVs

In today's St. Paul Pioneer-Press, columnist Joe Soucheray takes both his own paper and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to task over recent anti-SUV editorials. Both papers felt compelled to comment on the fact that Minnesota has risen from 18th in the nation to 4th in SUV registrations, and sunk from first to fifth in minivan registrations.

I sent him the following email:

Bravo!

I read the Star-Tribune's anti-SUV screed right after I got home from Sears
and unloaded my shiny new snowblower from the back of my Lexus RX300. It fit
just fine, after we folded the handle over. There's no way it would have fit
in the average car.

One other point the S-T made that nobody seems to want to debunk: I get 20
MPG out of my RX300, on average. (22 if I'm not using Minnesota-standard gas
diluted by 10% ethanol, which has a much lower energy content.) I've rented
the SUV-haters' favored replacement, the Chrysler Town and Country minivan,
several times on business trips - and have never gotten better than 17 MPG
out of real gas. Some energy savings.

Anyway, thanks for the column. I'm sure you'll get lots of comments from
enviro-weenies who can't see that real people have real reasons for buying
and driving SUVs. I'm happy that someone in the press sticks up for the rest
of us.

(28 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:rillaspins
Date: - 0000
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I used to be able to listen to Garage Logic more often and this is a recurring theme on his show. He once took the paper to task for reporting that "an SUV had killed someone" instead of the driver.

He'd probably have been very pleased if you had told him that the snowblower was a 2 stage.

(Joe is a hero of mine because he also owns a cannon he fires off.)
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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What's Garage Logic?

If the guy has a cannon, that automatically makes him cool in my book.
[User Picture]
From:rillaspins
Date: - 0000
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Garage Logic is Joe Soucheray's radio program on AM1500. They moved the time slot up so I don't get to hear it much.

Garage Logic is a mythical town outside Diversityville. He sounds a fog horn if you use words like "Community" outside original context. He has and End of the World, Things brought home in a backpack, School suspension and Ray of Hope reports. He is very conservative and funny without being hostile and rude like Rush Limbaugh. (I can't stand him.)

One of the big things on the show is your CI (cylinder index) You count all the cylinders you own (Cars, mowers, snowblowers) and that is your CI. They say your CI should be your age or higher.

There is also a cute song for the show "CI Girl" sung to the tune of "Uptown Girl".
[User Picture]
From:howardtayler
Date: - 0000
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Hmmm... my CI is 11 (6 in the minivan, 4 in the beetle, one in the mower). Fortunatly, I was born on February 29th, so my CI still beats my age by 2. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Hm. If I added up *all* the cylinders I've ever owned, it'd be 6, 4, 6, 6, 4, and 6 in the various vehicles, and three more in power tools...and 35 is less than 44. Yow.
[User Picture]
From:howardtayler
Date: - 0000

Cylinders *ever* ...

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Okay, counting the cars Dad gave me, and counting BOTH engines that passed through the Suburban we drove into the ground...

8, 8, 4, 4, 8, 8, 6, 4... and the mower for 1 more.

51. Wowsers.
(Buick Electra 225 Limited, Cadillac V8/6/4, Honda Accord, Saturn SL2, Chevy Suburban Silverado, Chevy Venture, New Beetle Turbo GLS)

If I don't count the two cars my Dad gave me, I'm back down at 35. Whew!

--Howard
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000

Re: Cylinders *ever* ...

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Both engines? How long did you have that thing?

If I add in the cars my parents/grandparents gave me, it comes to 57 (8, 6, and 8 more).

Your dad sounds like my grandparents: the first car I ever had was a Cadillac Calais coupe that was my grandparents' 4th car. (That grandfather believed in having spares.)
[User Picture]
From:howardtayler
Date: - 0000

Re: Cylinders *ever* ...

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We only had it for about five years. We bought it used, on the cheap, with over 200,000 miles on it. We put an engine from a new Suburban in it just 3 years later, and for two years running it was all but IMPOSSIBLE to get it to pass emissions. The mechanic who installed the new engine for me finally gave me the name of a guy who would do emissions inspections "on the sly" for vehicles like mine, and that was the point at which I decided I was done with the Suburban.

For the first 8 years of our marriage, Sandra and I owned our vehicles free-and-clear, though. It made a big difference in the family finances.

--Howard
[User Picture]
From:rillaspins
Date: - 0000

Re: Cylinders *ever* ...

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Sorry, guys.

Present cylinders only. Some of the people that call into the show boast of over 100. Scary. Then, of course, he does make concessions for living in city locations (the idea being you don't have space for as many vehicles.)

It's a good show. He's also talked about his love of motorcycles and refinishing wooden boats. It was almost scary hearing the love in his voice as he spoke about vanishing a deck on a boat he was rebuilding.

People call in and start motors on the air for him. One time I just lauphed because the person put down the phone, started the motor cycle and drove away.

And just remember B as in b, S as in s.
[User Picture]
From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000
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Try adding the bit-width of all the CPUs you have. If that's too much like cheating, then divide the result by 8. Or maybe 16.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Oh dear. As many Alphas as I've got, that number gets big in a hurry.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Let's see:

Office: 32+32
Machine room: 32+32+64+32+(32+32)+32+64+32+32+32+32+32+32+32+64+
32+32+32+32+8+(64+64)+32+32
Living room: 32 Dining room: 64
Basement: 32+32+32+32
Laptops: 32+32+32+32
30*32+6*64+8=1352

That's just my machines, Paul gets to count his own.
[User Picture]
From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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Without consoles:
(32+32) + 32 + 32 + 32 + 32 + 16 + 16 + 16 = 240
(dual mac g4/1000, p4/1600, p3/500, p3/800 laptop, p3/650ish laptop, mac 68040, mac 68040, mac 68020)

With consoles:
240 + 64 + 32 + 16 + 8 + 8 (gamecube, playstation, snes, nes, atari 2600) = 368
[User Picture]
From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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my CI is 0.

it's called a train, people. :P

Vorn
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Uh huh. Not all of us live where there's trains, or where trains are practical and useful.
[User Picture]
From:rillaspins
Date: - 0000
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So, on subject, Joe would probably ask if you live in Diversityville or LiberalLakes. Both have losing football teams because noone is allowed to win.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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All of this, of course, ignores the central argument "against SUVs", and responds only to the letter of the argument, and a pretty old version of it.

The whole "get a minivan" thing was really about people who were driving heavy truck-based SUVs--and still is. A minivan's more efficient than an H2, and has the same general amount of room to cram all your kids in (depending on which model you get). However, comparing your SUV to a minivan is rather deceptive, because in essence, your SUV is a minivan--it's a platform based on a car chassis designed to seat more than four people and have extra cargo space. The only real differing factors are 1) the ride height and 2) the name. The line is blurring more and more, and now you've got things like the Ford Freestyle coming out, that they're calling a "car-based SUV", and everyone else is calling a "station wagon", but it technically gets listed in the "SUV" ranks just by the name and slightly elevated ride height. The whole field of "SUVs" has evolved well beyond simply being Suburbans, Expeditions, and H2s that there are some reasonable options among them. This, however, does not diminish any argument that people should be environmentally conscious when buying a vehicle; that is the spirit of the argument that was originally made against SUVs, and what you seem to be ignoring.

And there are SUVs coming out now that are very fuel-efficient, and aren't the giant truck-based behemoths that really draw the ire of people who actually care about things like breathable air and such. If you bought a new gas-electric hybrid SUV, and then tried to say, "I'm driving an SUV--eat that, enviromentalists!" then you'd really be missing the point, even more than you are now.

I also find it fascinating that you're defending your choice of SUV based on the fact that, for its utility, it's more fuel-efficient than alternatives you considered, which means that while you're "driving an SUV", you're accepting their argument.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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My SUV is a platform based on a car chassis with 4WD added, suspension stiffened, and ground clearance significantly raised. That's enough to take it out of the realm of minivan, even leaving out the part that it doesn't have a minivan's abysmal inability to be worked on without major disassembly.

I still reject the environmentalist argument that they have the right to condemn others for their purchasing choices, and especially on the flawed premise that they have the right to decide for others what they do and do not need.

I'm certainly not accepting their argument. I'm saying "even if I did accept your argument, you still are full of prunes, because even by that argument, my choice is better than yours".

If I decided to replace my RX300 with a Suburban (no way in hell would I ever buy an Expedition, and I can't afford an H2), I would cheerfully tell any environmentalist who would condemn me to but the hell out of my life.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I'm saying "even if I did accept your argument, you still are full of prunes, because even by that argument, my choice is better than yours".

But you're using a false argument--that is, that a minivan is automatically better in the eyes of an environmentalist. So in reality you prove nothing. You can keep beating your straw men all you want...
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Why is it that environmentalists' universal response to SUV owners is "get rid of that penis extender and get a minivan" if they don't think minivans are what people should be driving instead of SUVs?
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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The answer to that loaded question is: It's not.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Quoted from misc.transport.road:

A recent LiveJournal community post used the phrase "Penile Compensator Unit" in reference to a certain model of SUV/truck. That sums up a lot.

I didn't go looking for this one...it just popped up. In general, those who denigrate SUVs say that they're owned by men who feel inadequate, and especially that they feel insecure enough in their masculinity to not drive the ever much more sensible minivan that the speaker thinks they should be driving instead.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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You seem to keep centering on the word "minivan" as if it's the key to the whole thing, which is where you lose easily.

Beyond that... it does seem obvious that at least one group of buyers of SUVs, especially large ones like the Yukon, Expedition, and H2, will buy them for the "status", including the fact that they seem mighty and can be more aggressive in such a large (and expensive) vehicle. They are in fact used for status symbols. And there are plenty of other options for those people that can fill their actual needs, but that they refuse to consider simply because they don't have that status symbol, that aura of power, around them... whether it be a minivan, a smaller SUV, a station wagon, or a car, a lot of people could not just live but live happily with something more efficient than the big SUV they end up buying, if only they could come to terms with driving something smaller.

As I've said repeatedly before, I have no problem with people who have legitimate uses for the vehicle they're driving, and there are people who legitimately need SUVs. But on the other side... during my brief stint as a car salesman, I dealt with a couple with a single child that insisted on buying an Expedition. Their finances were, well, terrible, and they were trying to trade in a car they were upside-down on... even without the trade-in, there was no way they could afford that much vehicle. All they needed was something for the three of them to get around in, but they wouldn't consider anything less expensive, not even the Explorer, which has grown in size to the point that it's a 'full-size' SUV now and there's even a smaller model below that, the Escape, that would've also fit their needs.

But not only would they not consider the Escape, they wouldn't consider the Explorer, and the only reason I could gather for it was that neither had the "image" that a larger vehicle like the Expedition projected. They wouldn't consider any kind of car, either. And after the finance department finally rejected them (and trust me, that's not something they ever want to do if they can possibly work out a deal), they just left, in search of another dealership that would, somehow, negotiate a deal to sell them a bigger vehicle than they'd ever need.

And that kind of thing happens every day, with people going for stuff well out of their needs, and in some cases well out of their financial range, just for "status". And it's not just men, either; in that case, it was the woman who was being so insistent on having something that big "for her baby to ride in".

But yes, people tend to criticize those who drive SUVs, especially large ones, for that reason. And they do so because it happens all the time.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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I center on the word "minivan" because it's the universal suggestion from people who somehow think they have the right to decide what others need.

The couple you cite had every right to buy an Expedition if they felt they needed it and could afford it. From your description, it's obvious they don't meet the latter criterion. Therefore, they weren't able to buy the vehicle. That's the way our system works.

If they could, somehow, work out a financing package, however, they have every right to buy the vehicle - and you would have had no right not to sell it to them, especially on your own biased view of their needs that, in our system, is both incorrect and irrelevant.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I center on the word "minivan" because it's the universal suggestion from people who somehow think they have the right to decide what others need.

It used to be. Now it's not. Things change. There are SUVs that're preferable to minivans now. Why? They're hybrids. Things change.

I know I wouldn't have had a right not to sell it to them. That wasn't my point. I would've sold it to them if they could've afforded it.

It seems that the point was lost on you, but then, that's nothing new at all.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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If it's not any more, how come the two newspaper editorials that triggered the column that, in turn, triggered this entry brought minivan registrations into the discussion?

Is someone who buys an RX400h over an RX330 somehow better than someone who buys the non-hybrid? Even if they spend 99% of their driving time on the road and thus won't see any benefit at all from the hybrid powertrain?

Your point was that you didn't think they needed it. I reject your position to hold such an opinion. That's not your place in our society.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I would suggest the second brought minivan registrations in because the first did. And that one thing bringing in minivan registrations suggests, yes, that someone still clings to that. But there are people on both sides that tend to oversimplify things, and he's apparently one of them. You're one on the other side, by continuing to insist that that's a "universal" thing just because one person does it and other people respond to it.

It's a lingering belief, sure. But debunking it doesn't mean the movement behind it is wrong, just that the belief itself is wrong, and there are people within the movement (such as myself) who already recognize that. Which makes your assertion about "universal" beliefs to appear ridiculous.

I'm free to hold whatever opinions I want. I also reject your assertion that you can tell me what my place in society is. That's definitely not your position.

If someone wants to do something that's going to harm me and people I care about, then you can goddamn well bet I'm going to not only have an opinion about it, but share it, and share it openly.
[User Picture]
From:angelwind
Date: - 0000
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Run for office, dude. Then you could make it your place.

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