High Gas Prices Putting Brakes on SUV Sales

Squeezed May 3, 2005

Finally. I thought this day would never come. The high price of gasoline is having an effect on sales of those gas guzzling sports-utility vehicles.

Nationwide, overall SUV sales slid 13.5 percent in the first quarter, according to Ward’s Automotive Reports. Sales of the biggest SUVs plunged, including a 28 percent drop for the Chevrolet Suburban and and 22 percent for the Tahoe. Sales of Ford’s Expedition fell 25 percent, while the Toyota Sequoia sank 12.6 percent.

What goes around, comes around.

The article goes on to say that SUV sales are trending down even in Texas, where they like everything big, including their cars and trucks. Eventually, when gas bills reach the three-digit range per pop, people start realizing that this is ridiculous.

I’ve never been a real fan of SUVs. None of my close friends have one, and they’ve never appealed to me personally. I’ve never had any need for four-wheel drive capabilities. But when I hear how much gas they guzzle (10 miles per gallon?!?), I’m glad I have a small car that’s three times more fuel-efficient.

Yet I’ve seen how fashionable they’ve become. I’m reminded that, throughout history and across cultures, things that are fashionable at the time prove to be utterly stupid in retrospect. Chinese foot binding, for instance. (And yet, Western women do much the same thing today. We never learn.) In the case of SUVs, it’s disturbing that we’ve forgotten the lessons of the mid-1970s. When gasoline was being rationed, cars became more fuel efficient. But then as supplies increased, so did the size of cars, and the fuel efficiency went down again. We never learn.

And, let’s not forget safety. Obviously, those who have SUVs and like them cite the fact that they protect their occupants better. But, if they’re so safe, why is there the need for consumer advocates to run this ad campaign? Besides, yes, I’m at greater risk for dying when an SUV rear-ends me. Sorry, that’s not making me give up my Suzuki Esteem. Any car (SUVs included) is only as safe as its driver. I have a problem with seeing SUVs speeding down H-3 at 80 mph. I would hate to be in front of that SUV and have to brake suddenly…especially when 1.2 million GM pickups and SUVs may have faulty brakes. Just ask this eight-month pregnant blogger and her husband.

Don’t get me wrong, I think SUVs have their place…namely, Iraq. In fact, I think the reason why the military is having problems getting enough armored vehicles in Iraq is because all of them are merrily cruising the highways and by-ways of this nation.

What I’d like to see happen is for the military to start the draft. No, calm down, I’m not talking about sending our young men into battle. Our SUVs have had it too easy. After years of consuming precious resources, it’s time they earn their keep. Let’s call our SUVs to national service to protect our troops! Each SUV owner should be required to send their precious mini-tank to Iraq for six-month deployments. I’ll bet that one of those things could survive a rocket-powered grenade, or a car bomb.

And if the SUV doesn’t come back? Console yourself by knowing it gave its life in the line of duty.

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