Can SUVs remain fashionable when only unfashionable people drive them?

Speaking of SUVs… (see below), at a recent gathering in suburban New Jersey I noticed that nearly everyone else had arrived in an SUV.  The drivers were overwhelmingly middle-aged married suburbanites with children.  When one encounters a young, good-looking, city-dweller the chances are very high that he or she will be driving an inexpensive compact car of some sort.  If you see an SUV in the distance but can’t see the occupants because the glass is too heavily tinted, chances are that it is 35-year-old mom and two kids.  A Suburu sedan, by contrast, is often occupied by a young single urbanite.


How much longer can the popularity of SUVs continue?  Many of the drivers are getting so old that their fragile bones really can’t handle the stiff suspension and harsh ride over bumps (my 40th birthday is in a week and whenever I’m picked up from the airport in a BMW X5 or similar I can’t believe how little isolation is provided from potholes, etc.; it is actually more jarring than landing the DA40 at 67 knots).


So how is it that SUVs remain in fashion when 99% of the owners of SUVs are unfashionable?

87 thoughts on “Can SUVs remain fashionable when only unfashionable people drive them?

  1. “Popular” and “in fashion” aren’t really the same thing. SUVs are popular because lots and lots of unfashionable people a) have money, and b) are susceptible to advertising.

    Also, people don’t like to admit that their asses are uncomfy in their $50k vehicle,so they’ll put up with a bad ride. I don’t know what this proves, other than the fact that people are human.

  2. See Neal Stephenson’s “In the beginning was the command line” for a similar explanation about the triumph of Microsoft over Apple. Basically, Microsoft caters to the philistine bourgeois, who happen to outnumber the fashionable hipsters (and have much more money), and thus constitute a much bigger market. The sophisticated might sneer at them, but the majority of the world happen to like SUVs, Windows, McDonalds and Hollywood action movies.

  3. Actually, the “MINI” seems to be getting more popular… hopefully this means the pendulum is swinging…

  4. Let us not forget that when Congress recently improved the tax code, they included a provision that professionals -doctors, lawyers, accountants, stock brokers, etc. – can deduct the expense of an SUV or heavy truck.

    People choose a car to make a statement. SUV drivers are usually letting the world know that:

    a) I am a professional (or wife of a professional) with enough income and savvy to drive a SUV and write it off, or

    b) I have children and protecting them with this overweight SUV has higher priorty to me than protecting the envionment or whomever I crash into.

    In both cases, the driver is letting other SUV drivers know that he/she is part of the in group. Your young, single, urbanite in a Subaru probably has no idea of what is being communicated.

  5. How can it remain fashionable? I can’t.
    The flywheel of society is finally beginning to rotate on its axis, and the SUV is seen with increasing frequency as a the embarrassing penis-envy goofbus that it is.

    I don’t care what is being communicated. If you drive an SUV, you have image issues. Look at your purchase: it’s got expensive tires, guzzles gas, crushes just about anything it hits, sucks to drive, carries less than most mini-vans, exceeds its cargo load at full seating capacity. WTF?! If an engineer wanted to design the plainly stupidest vehicle conceivable, it wouldn’t be too different from an SUV.

  6. “I have children and protecting them with this overweight SUV has higher priorty to me than protecting the envionment or whomever I crash into.”

    Well gosh, the nerve of those SUV drivers. How dare they care more about their own children! They should gladly sacrifice their children for the good of “the environment,” like good little leftists from Berkeley.

  7. Ken,

    In a world without Volvos your left-baiting would at least make some sense.

    In this world, it is possible to protect your children and not unnecessarily endanger the children of others.

  8. The safety benefit of SUVs is a myth anyway. Although they typically win in SUV vs CAR accidents, SUV vs SUV accidents are the most dangerous kind to be in. Then you have two large forces of matter slamming into each other, which is far more likely to result in a rollover or frame damage far worse than that of a CAR vs CAR impact.

    In other words, if you’re the only one driving an SUV, you win. If everyone drives in a SUV, everyone loses. Ironically similar to the environemntal consequences of SUVs: protect your kids today, let them die of global warming impact tomorrow.

    Anyway, I do tend to agree that SUVs are becoming unfashionable, but I also doubt that sales will drop to pre-1990 levels. What is a good sign however, is when I called a local Toyota dealer about when the 2004 Prius gets in, he said “Oh, yeah, we’ve gotten a lot of calls about that car!” I live in San Antonio — not the most likely place for Prius buyers!

  9. There’s a scene in a movie where a couple of attractive young women in a convertible zip in front of Kathy Bates as she’s about to park in a space. They smugly tell her they are younger, faster and better looking. She rams their car, causing them to vacate the space. Her words: I’m older and better insured.

    SUVs are the revenge of the unhip, and there are plenty of unhip looking for revenge. But what happens when we start letting our kids drive them?

  10. SUVs are a reflection of increasing feelings of impotence among the American middle class. A worker may feel trapped in the quicksand of debt, and terrified that his or her livelihood may disappear the next day as the employer downsizes (or ships the jobs off to India so the CEO can pocket the savings). If the worker is politically astute, he or she may feel completely disenfranchised and unrepresented as the Bushies sell the country out to donors behind closed doors.

    But get in an SUV and that impotent, disenfranchised, terrified worker feels POWERFUL! Surrounded by all that steel and sitting several meters above everyone else, the worker has the feeling that “I OWN THE ROAD!” Free to go wherever he or she wants, on or off the road, and to further display status by chattering away on a cellphone, the cowed worker can display and act with arrogance that is otherwise inappropriate.

    SUVs, with all the damage they inflict, are merely a symptom of a more insidious and intractable societal affliction.

  11. For the suburbanite, consider the alternative to an SUV: a station wagon or mini-van. What would you rather be driving, an Escalade or a mini-van?

  12. All you people are thinking way too much. Young families buy an SUV after the first kid comes because they perceive it to have more room and be safer. And, not completely grown out of their juvinille hipster obsession, they swear they will never drive a mini-van. When the second kid comes they realize that SUV isn’t all that roomy (unles your driving a real land yacht like a Suburban) and is in fact somewhat impractical, as lifting two kids in and out of an SUV quickly gets to your 30 year old back. So they trade the SUV in for a mini-van and live happily ever after.

    Been there, done that.

  13. We’re mostly on the same side with respect to SUVs. Now let’ question Philip’s implied assumption that “urbanite” implies youth and attractiveness. My youth and appearance have varied over the years, but I have never wanted to drive an SUV OR live in an urbanized area. Or did I read the original article wrong?

  14. Well, I have a Cadillac (sedan), a Honda Odyssey (mini-van), and a Volvo XC90 (SUV). I used to drive a sports car before getting hitched and started cloning. Of the car types I have driven, I like mini-vans the most. I no longer drive sports cars because my butt hurts after a while.

    I have grown to hate driving the SUV because it’s sluggish and I got tired of grunting whenever I ‘mount’ it. As to sluggishness, it might have something to do with the wheel size. It makes me nervous too since I have to push the accelerator pedal half-way down in order get it moving forward.

    I love the van because it has great visibility with large windows all around, it drives like a sedan, and I have gotten addicted to the high sitting position. After a van, even a Ferrari would make me feel like a slime hugging the ground.

    There are three downsides to driving a mini-van.

    1) gas – 18 miles/gallon isn’t great although better than most SUV.

    2) parking – it’s a bitch parking anywhere one has to wiggle around to park.

    3) fashionable – mini-van is admittedly, not cool. For a married man like me, having a babe-repellent device is an advantage (warning: self-hypnosis in operation).

  15. I agree with Chris that all of you are over analyzing this and coming to an incorrect conclusion. Here’s my opinion.

    The reason you see young, single urbanites driving a compact car is because they are easier to park. In most cities (I live in Chicago) it is a total bitch to find a parking slot on the street large enough to accommodate an SUV or pickup.

    I’d say the suburbanite SUV drivers are chasing a combination of things.
    1. Keeping up with the Jones’ (neighbor has an SUV). So I agree with the idea that they are showing off their money.
    2. Perceived ability to haul their crap and the neighbor kid’s crap around.
    3. No “size penalty” for parking.

    I very much doubt anyone is giving the finger to the environment, looking to kill other people’s kids in smaller cars, or shout to the world that they are hip. It is my opinion you are attributing to malice what is more easily explained by other, simpler reasons.

  16. Urbanite *does* still mean young and hip, as the suburbs are increasingly used as the figurative ice floes in those regions unlucky enough to lack actual ice floes.

  17. Unbelievable. Only a young (well, sort of) single urbanite would assume that everyone wants to be like a young single urbanite. I can assure you that 90% of the country couldn’t care less what they’re driving in New York or Boston.

  18. Why is it all of a sudden the SUV has replaced the sports car as the envy mobile? Why are you all so worked up about them? Its not as if ALL SUV’s get horrible milage or roll over. And just what is so good about being a yuppie urbanite? The urbanites whom this article describes sound very stuck up and full of themselves. Before it used to be if you drove a Ferrari you were compensating for a small manhood. Now if you drive a Ford Explorer you are compensating for a small manhood. Does that mean its alright to drive sports cars now?

    It sucks to believe that this kind of mindless drivel is the best that Harvard University could produce. But being born and raised in Boston I can understand the thinking. Harvard is in Cambridge, the city right over the bridge. Its an “alternative” city. Lots of tolerance for every kind of race, creed and lifestyle which is good. But tolerance also has a downside when certain “bourgeois bohemians” or BoBos as I like to call them believe that they are the salt of the earth and that everyone wants to be just like them. And adding to that, anyone who isn’t is a slobbering moron who obviously isn’t “hip”. BoBos = Hippies The Next Generation.

    Of course all that is needed to deal with these BoBo’s is time. For the people the BoBos ridicule, the first generation hippies eventually grew up, became professionals and bought SUV’s. Conspicuous consumption is in your future BoBos and you can’t deny it or prevent it. Shop at your Whole Grain Foods, be as politically active as you want to be, backpack all over the world, form NGO’s and annoy the hell out of everyone while achieving nothing, drive tiny toy cars like the Toyota Prius…etc its all irrelevant in the end. You WILL consume more than you ever thought whether you like it or not.

  19. Mark, Steve: I’m sure that you guys are hip happening trendsetters… but the average person seems curiously unwilling, in my experience, to follow fashions established by middle-aged folks in Ogallala, Nebraska, Winnemucca, Nevada, Teaneck, New Jersey, or, for that matter, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    I wouldn’t have thought it was controversial to say that American fashions are established by young people in Manhattan and L.A. and propagate outward from those two points. Did I get it wrong? Was it in fact white kids in Minnesota who started wearing baseball caps backwards? Do farm boys in central Wales set the trends for the U.K.?

    [I think you two didn’t get the point of my posting. Clearly many of the folks buying SUVs are doing it because of the perceived fashionability of the machines rather than because they love the harsh ride and sucking down gas at $2/gallon. The rest of the things that those same people believe are fashionable emanate from young people in LA and Manhattan. But if you sample a young people in LA or Manhattan you find that they don’t have SUVs…]

  20. Shop at your Whole Grain Foods, be as politically active as you want to be, backpack all over the world, form NGO’s and annoy the hell out of everyone while achieving nothing, drive tiny toy cars like the Toyota Prius…etc its all irrelevant in the end.

    Why so hostile, NDP? You feeling a little threatened by people trying to be responsible? If it’s all going to be irrelevant in the end why do you feel the need to bash? Who is stuck up and full of themselves?

    Maybe you’ve sold out, maybe you never tried to do more than what’s best for you and your selfish needs. But at least have the decency to shut up when other people are trying to do better than that.

  21. An awful lot of the SUV drivers I see do tend to be middle-aged.

    Another thing to add about SUV’s: wildly overpriced.

    It’s commonly reported that SUV’s have huge profit margins. Which means that people who buy SUV’s are spending as much as $10k-$15k extra for, effectively, nothing.

    Seems to me a smart carbuyer would find something with a better return than a rapidly depreciating and expensive to operate SUV.

    (Allow me to add another generic automotive complaint: Who’s the marketing genius behind “headlights for blind people”? Why are people allowed to install headlights that render other drivers unable to see? What’s with this “my self-image counts more than other people’s safety” movement?)

  22. I find it ironic that you mention the Subaru sedans in the same section blasting SUVs, since Subaru markets thier “Outback” wagons as SUV alternates. My wife and I own both an SUV (Jeep Cherokee Sport) and a Subaru sedan (WRX). They both have seen more dirt than the average SUV ever will. The only “family” cargo haulers several years ago were mini-vans and SUV’s. We really would have picked up a wagon if they were reasonably sized (smaller than a Caprice wagon). Our two kids are as much at home in the WRX as the Jeep.

    I only wish that the station wagon was more fashionable to drive. This would put an end to the SUV craze for sure. I can’t see why any reasonable person wouldn’t like one. I have driven my sister-in-laws Protoge 5 (Mazda Wagon), and it is very much a replacement for the SUV for many families. Even the power/performance crazy of us can get a wagon (Subaru WRX wagon or Audi S4 Avant). Hear this hipsters “Drive a wagon to save our collective futures!” Besides the sport compact scene welcomes the little wagons too.

  23. “How much longer can the popularity of SUVs continue? ”

    As long as the cost of gas in the U.S. is so cheap.

    Also, I often hear the excuse that SUV drivers have to drive a big car so they can see around all the other big cars. So it becomes a sort of self-fullfilling prophecy.

  24. Well, as the husband of a wife who is evaluating what she wants to drive next (she gets the new car, five years later, I get it as she get the next new one), the primary motivators are: 1) Good visibility, 2) Reasonable gas milage, 3) Reasonable size.

    The main candidate right now is either the Hyundai Santa Fe (small SUV, 18 MPG or so) or the Ford Escape (small SUV, 18 MPG or so). The main deciding factors: price and features.

    We find anything larger than the above vehicles to be uneconomical land whales (rural Midwest term for anything large, cumbersome and slow moving, typically a big Cadilac or Suburban). After a recent downsizing, we can’t afford anything more expensive or with a low MPG. Just because we are suburban, doesn’t mean we don’t care. It’s just that we are normally hauling a lot more stuff that the single, young urbanite and a small compact just doesn’t do the job.

  25. “It’s just that we are normally hauling a lot more stuff that the single, young urbanite and a small compact just doesn’t do the job. ”

    There are options between SUV and “small compact”.

  26. 18 MPG was, roughly speaking, “reasonable gas mileage” in 1974. What makes it reasonable today, given that there are production cars that do nearly 3x that?

  27. Regarding the comment about the Escalade vs. a minivan for suburban parents – I looked up the price of a new Escalade, and it’s around $50,000. A goRegarding the comment about the Escalade vs. a minivan for suburban parents – I looked up the price of a new Escalade, and it’s around $50,000. A good, late model minivan could easily be had for $20,000. As a soon-to-be suburban parent, I could take the $30,000 difference, save it for 18 years, and have it double with a little less than 4% compound interest. That would pay for the kid’s college education, if she’s not to lazy to apply for scholarships like I was.

    The Escalade might be worth it if you have money to burn, but I’ll bet most Escalade owners do not. To me, owning a vehicle like that sends a message – “I am retarded. And I have a little dick.”od, late model minivan could easily be had for $20,000. As a soon-to-be suburban parent, I could take the $30,000 difference, save it for 18 years, and have it double with a little less than 4% compound interest. That would pay for the kid’s college education, if she’s not to lazy to apply for scholarships like I was.

    The Escalade might be worth it if you have money to burn, but I’ll bet most Escalade owners do not. To me, owning a vehicle like that sends a message – “I am retarded. And I have a little dick.”

    And regarding fashion – here in Texas, everyone has an SUV (or a truck), and they don’t care about hip urbanites. They are thoroughly unhip and proud of it.

  28. Phil, you have this all wrong. My neighbors buy SUVs simply because they are a fashionable status symbols. Mini-vans are not cool. Small cars feel – small – when surrounded by SUVs. Young kids drive small cars, but those are just kids, who wants to drive a kiddie car?

    When dropping my kids off at school in my Honda Accord, it sure is easy to feel out of place when surrounded by shiny new Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes SUVs. SUVs are simply today’s version of keeping up with the Joneses.

    My favorite expression of this fad is the half-Hummer (the H2). This box is a truck with all the ugly and none of the engineering of a real Hummer. If this wasn’t a real vehicle, it would make a great parody.

  29. I like all these people going on about how your choice of vehicle is a ‘statement’ yadayadayada.

    Okay, here’s a challenge to all of you, then: Consider Mt. Seven in Golden

    http://www.flyingmax.com/seven/

    where the roads to launch are utterly impassable eight months of the year and require some pretty serious 4WD power the rest. Not technical fourwheeling or anything, just pure grade and altitude. Now, I ask you SUV-haters, just what exactly do you propose I should have instead of my Trooper for getting the five to eight of us plus flying gear that are in a typical load up to launch each day?? I mean, I’m perfectly willing to buy some non-SUV machine if it would make you all feel so much better and everything, but I just really don’t see what else would do my SUV’s job.

  30. I like all these people going on about how your choice of vehicle is a ‘statement’ yadayadayada.

    Okay, here’s a challenge to all of you, then: Consider Mt. Seven in Golden

    http://www.flyingmax.com/seven/

    where the roads to launch are utterly impassable eight months of the year and require some pretty serious 4WD power the rest. Not technical fourwheeling or anything, just pure grade and altitude. Now, I ask you SUV-haters, just what exactly do you propose I should have instead of my Trooper for getting the five to eight of us plus flying gear that are in a typical load up to launch each day?? I mean, I’m perfectly willing to buy some non-SUV machine if it would make you all feel so much better and everything, but I just really don’t see what else would do my SUV’s job.

  31. A lot of people buy SUV so they can install that little propeller on the tailgate that gyrates back in forth in the SUV’s wake turbulence. You can’t possibly argue against this reason.

  32. Alex writes: “Now, I ask you SUV-haters, just what exactly do you propose I should have instead of my Trooper for getting the five to eight of us plus flying gear that are in a typical load up to launch each day??”

    Okay, you and your 5 to 8 associates are granted a reprieve and waiver, and won’t be first up against the wall when the revolution comes. (But we’ll be watching…)

    The other 99.9% of SUV owners don’t go anywhere near mountains, and don’t do anything that requires more offroad capability than you can get from, say, a Mini.

  33. SUVs are for the insecure who need a status symbol. If you need 4WD, like Alex, buy a pickup. I drive (yikes) a (gasp) Mercury Sable wagon after having a Maxima for 9 great years, because of needing more room for the 2 kids. Secure enough to stick the unspent money into the 401K. Also my hubby drives an F250.

  34. Why is it all of a sudden the SUV has replaced the sports car as the envy mobile? Why are you all so worked up about them? Its not as if ALL SUV’s get horrible milage or roll over. And just what is so good about being a yuppie urbanite? The urbanites whom this article describes sound very stuck up and full of themselves. Before it used to be if you drove a Ferrari you were compensating for a small manhood. Now if you drive a Ford Explorer you are compensating for a small manhood. Does that mean its alright to drive sports cars now?

    It sucks to believe that this kind of mindless drivel is the best that Harvard University could produce. But being born and raised in Boston I can understand the thinking. Harvard is in Cambridge, the city right over the bridge. Its an “alternative” city. Lots of tolerance for every kind of race, creed and lifestyle which is good. But tolerance also has a downside when certain “bourgeois bohemians” or BoBos as I like to call them believe that they are the salt of the earth and that everyone wants to be just like them. And adding to that, anyone who isn’t is a slobbering moron who obviously isn’t “hip”. BoBos = Hippies The Next Generation.

    Of course all that is needed to deal with these BoBo’s is time. For the people the BoBos ridicule, the first generation hippies eventually grew up, became professionals and bought SUV’s. Conspicuous consumption is in your future BoBos and you can’t deny it or prevent it. Shop at your Whole Grain Foods, be as politically active as you want to be, backpack all over the world, form NGO’s and annoy the hell out of everyone while achieving nothing, drive tiny toy cars like the Toyota Prius…etc its all irrelevant in the end. You WILL consume more than you ever thought whether you like it or not.

  35. > 2) Reasonable gas milage … 18 MPG or so

    Huh? So what’s bad gas milage?

    Americans need to learn from the Dutch and ride bicyles to work. You can fight obesity, polution, traffic, save money and enjoy a refreshing commute, instead of one that leaves you enraged or disconsolate. Needless to say, the milage is a little better than “reasonable.”

    > “…philistine bourgeois…” – PaulJ

    You’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to use that sobriquet, haven’t you? I like it, even though it is a little redundant.

  36. Philip, you are missing the visible hand of the market place here: the Marketing departments at Ford, GM, Jeep, etc.

    You are quite right the intelligent urbanites beyond the .com era have run away from SUVs. You are also correct that some people take their fashon queues from urban trends. But two factors mitigate your observation. The corporate marketing departments of the automakers are what most Americans are really exposed to. The these groups feed the average consumer a false image of what is cool.

    Secondly, SUVs did not originate with trendy urbanites. SUVs, like Country music, is the chic of the bumkins, or anti-chic, as our Texas correspondent pointed out. At some point around 20 years ago, it started to become cool to some element of the population to be a country trucker, a westerner, who went everywhere in his pickup. Taking hay out to the cattle on the winter range while Willie and Waylon played in the cab. It’s this sort faux romantic image that the market segment for SUVs was built out of.

    Later on it became hip for urbanites to play at being a little country by buying a cheap pickup truck. Later on the automotive marketing groups saw the potential in upscaling this to wealthy urban professionals.

    The markup for this is huge. Take a cheap pickup that doesn’t have to meet sedan emission or safety mandates, and throw in about $500 worth (at OEM prices) of leather, plastic, and cheap electronics. Kick the proce up by $10K to $15K and invest in some semi-patriotic, country-boy ad campaigns. Viola! Every wealthy Texan and country wannabe is suddenly drooling over a Yukon or an Expididtion. Then pay Schwartzniger to drive a big Hummer and you have an unstoppable tend.

    Urban hipsters then become the irrelevant minority as far as SUVs go.

  37. It’s just sad that a large portion of the SUV demographic struggles so hard to give off a wealthy image by going into such bad debt. It’s further saddening that the truly wealthy and people of class are laughing at them for their honest, but misguided efforts to fit in, and for thinking that an SUV and a golf shirt would buy them acceptance. These are people that most likely vote republican even if it’s not in their best interest. Yet after all of this self destructive behavior, all they get are laughs behind closed doors from the very people they seek approval from. So sad. So sad.

  38. I’m a young single urbanite. Got a shiny red 2001 Cherokee. The original SUV. This vehicle is truly practical and rugged with lots of pickup, not some idiodic oxy-moron like the Mercede’s or Lexus SUVs out there. Luxury SUV… that makes no sense, but its an image dumb yuppies love.

  39. I’m a young single urbanite. Got a shiny red 2001 Cherokee. The original SUV. This vehicle is truly practical and rugged with lots of pickup, not some idiodic oxy-moron like the Mercede’s or Lexus SUVs out there. Luxury SUV… that makes no sense, but its an image dumb yuppies love.

  40. I’m a young single urbanite. Got a shiny red 2001 Cherokee. The original SUV. This vehicle is truly practical and rugged with lots of pickup, not some idiodic oxy-moron like the Mercede’s or Lexus SUVs out there. Luxury SUV… that makes no sense, but its an image dumb yuppies love.

  41. I’ve been driving SUVs and trucks for easily a decade before they became “fashionable”. I can assure you that me and most of my SUV driving friends in Colorado, mostly driving 70’s through early 90’s “SUVs”, aren’t about to trade them in for a thirty to forty thousand dollar AWD Volvo or Subaru just so a few uptight eco dweebs will like us better. Like we could care what the pasty faced geeks and eco posers in NYC or Boston drives 😉

  42. It’s simple. SUV’s will be popular as long as government regulations don’t ruin them. But don’t worry. The socialists are champing at the bit as we speak. I say get rid of the regulations and let the free market decide what cars will survive. I bet that people will buy big cars instead of SUVs. The regulation I talk about is called CAFE. Corperate Average Fuel Economy.

  43. Why do people bitch so much about SUVs ? GET A LIFE !! This is a free country isn’t it ? All you leftist loosers stop blaming SUVs for the worlds problems.

  44. Philip, most people like SUVs because they are big, they look neat, and they’re the latest craze. I can reel off a list cool new SUVs: Porshe, VW, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac. SUVs are where car manufacturers are spending most of the money in design and advertising so why wouldn’t the public be drawn to them? Now if the reason you own a car is to get from point A to point B then your are probably not swayed by the lasted car ads or great design of the SUVs. Or maybe you feel like SUVs are “bad” for the environment. Whatever the reason you dislike SUVs it doesn’t make sense to say that people who drive SUVs are old and not cool so SUVs are bad.

  45. I don’t discriminate against someone just because they are driving a Prius or a Mini — endangering the lives of their loved ones. Heck, my sister drives a Civic hybrid and I still talk to her, and I have a couple of friends that own bio-diesels. I have no respect for arrogant fools that think it’s cool to stereotype people or vandalize SUVs. Folks like that need to join their local Aryans R’ Us support group where they’ll find lots of like [close] minded people.

    We also own a Volvo FWD and an Audi Quattro — D’OH! Now I’ll be stereotyped as a wasteful ugly American, but have you tried getting a decent allowance for a trade-in vehicle lately? There are still plenty of times when I find myself firing up the old SUV (e.g. picking up manure for our veggie garden, back country recreation, shuttling relatives to the supermarket after blizzards, visits to the hood, etc.) If I’m going to work or a ski resort, you are much more likely to find me in the environmentally kosher Audi. FYI, Audi’s are also very fashionable where we live, but I could care less. We bought it because there was nothing comparable on the market balancing a clean interior/exterior with AWD and performance (and four years free maintenance). Is it my fault if other consumers are blindly driven by fashion?

    Someone above claimed that SUV tires are much more expensive which is total BS. Maybe monster truck tires, but I have best-in-class 31″ studded winter tires and 32″ summer mud tires and both are cheaper than good OEM size performance tires for the Audi.

  46. It’s amazing to me how full of labels and general accusations you bunch o geeks are for the most part. There are plenty of redeeming qualities to a SUV, and not everyone single person who drives one is a “young suburbanite with too much money.” People use these cars for sport (4WD/Snow/Sand/Mud,) and utility (hauling/ towing,) especially in rural areas. I’m a little disappointed at the Huffington-like propaganda being spewed forth by this thread.

  47. SUVs are simply station wagons for the suburban set who think that station wagons are awful. I’ve driven more than a few wagons in my life, and my last was the Passat Wagon 1.8T. Not fabulous mileage (30 MPG on the highway) but not too shabby. It had plenty of suburban cargo space, but of course it couldn’t carry more than five overweight Americans (and in Europe, the Passat is considered a Big Car). Damned good safety, however — I was rammed twice while I had it, and it only suffered superficial cosmetic damage. I can’t think of a reason to buy a Jeep Cherokee over the Passat Wagon … they both come with leather and four-wheel drive for about the same price when you think about it.

    SUVs are wildly overpriced, oversized (a British friend coined the phrased “stupid-sized”) station wagons. Suburban folk are, by definition, car-based hominids who think they have to provide transportation for their own brood and the neighbors, too. Urban folk cannot park these monsters, don’t need to ferry seven people at a time (that’s what taxis are for), and already pay enormous fees called “rent”, so they don’t migrate towards the SUV. Thinking the SUV provides some kind of off road capability is just more marketing hype: suburbanites think driving over the curb to park alongside the soccer fields is “off roading”. 95% of all SUVs never leave pavement. And the huge payments that the name-brand SUVs inflict on their already in-debt-to-their-eyeballs owners is criminal.

  48. America represents the triumph of conspicuous consumption over taste. The SUV represents the triumph of conspicuous consumption over taste.

    Seems like the perfect match to me

  49. A month ago I happened to be in the parking lot of the Safeway in Toppenish, WA. One of those true c
    ountry towns where the locals make their living from ranching, & depend on reliable transportation t
    o get to the back 40 (or 4 sections) so they can make enough money to pay the bills.

    There were far fewer SUVs there than in the parking lot of the average 7-11 near an Intel office park. (Granted a lot of pickups, but I could count the SUVs on one hand & still have enough fingers left over to give the bird to their owners.)

    Maybe they’d all own SUVs if they made as much money as the average suburbanite. I don’t know. I do know that my sister’s husband, who farms for a living, doesn’t own one.

    Geoff

  50. Gawd. You people get way too much enjoyment from trying to psychoanalyze the ‘common people’ whom you so clearly feel are inferior to you.

    Why do people drive SUVs? That’s simple. Because at some point they probably realized that they can’t travel comfortably with their spouse, their two kids, and a couple of friends in a sedan. At which point, their choices are to either get an SUV, a station wagon, or a minivan. If you’ve looked at station wagons lately you might notice that you can’t comfortably travel six in most of those, either, and the ones you could are styled like, you guessed it, SUVs. Because minivans are ugly, dog-slow, and would earn even more scorn from people like you (who would probably call them soccer moms, breeders, etc), the only logical choices left are (1) an SUV, or (2) a little SUV.

    Finally, they probably don’t care what a bunch of elitist 20-somethings think about their mode of transportation, and would probably wonder why you think it’s any business of yours how they spend their hard-earned cash.

  51. Webwench: Minivans are “dog-slow”? http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/new/reviews/full/index.cfm/id/20838 shows the 0-60 time of a Honda Odyssey at 7.7 seconds, which is faster than many sports cars of the 1970s (a time when the highways were a lot less clogged and the possibility of going more than 35 mph was common!). A $52,000 Toyota Land Cruiser required 9 seconds to get up to the same speed (see http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/new/reviews/full/index.cfm/id/20911). If you want to spend $70,000 on a Range Rover, you’ll get similar performance, according to http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/new/reviews/full/index.cfm/id/23087.htm.

    So the monster SUV is great for ramming into soccer moms but don’t challenge them to a drag race…

  52. Webwench can you tell me what hundreds of soccer moms doing in H2’s and such in the rush hour on the DC beltway every day? Oh, they must be not soccer moms but actually short-dicked people with extremely thick foreheads.

  53. We just bought our first SUV (Toyota Sequoia) because:
    a) There are 6 people in our family plus a dog and 2-3 times a year we drive 1000 miles (one-way) to visit my family
    b) We just bought a boat and needed something that could tow it.
    An SUV is the right vehicle for us.

  54. but the average person seems curiously unwilling, in my experience, to follow fashions established by middle-aged folks in Ogallala, Nebraska, Winnemucca, Nevada, Teaneck, New Jersey, or, for that matter, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Ouch, that stings. but it’s true!

  55. presidentpicker, hundreds of soccer moms (and soccer dads, and yuppies, and yes, even urban hipsters) are in H2s and such in rush hour for the same reasons others are in Mercedes sedans, Ford F250s with stickers portraying Calvin peeing on something, rice racers with neon lights underneath, midlife-crisis sufferers in Corvettes, liberal college professors in their hybrid-fuel vehicles, the more practical flavor of riceboy driving a Subaru WRX, etc. Mostly, they like how their vehicle looks, and they feel it puts forth an image that suits them.

    I’d argue that most SUV drivers who aren’t driving Hummers or gold-trimmed land yachts, are driving what they drive because they’re laboring under the ubiquitous perception that they and their families are safer in SUVs.

    Hey, as I drive to work on my little girly Yamaha cruiser keeping eyes peeled for weaving SUV drivers on their cellphones, I think maybe I’d be safer in an SUV too.

    Philip, so you’re telling me that you associate minivans with screaming hot performance, eh? A ten-year-old minivan with a mom and four kids pull up next to you at a stoplight, and you think, whoo, that Windstar can really haul ass? Sigh.

  56. Phil Greenspun is correct about most styles coming from the biggest *urban* areas, but the SUV really is more a phenomenon of the *sub*urban areas, and my guess is that the replacement for them will come from small metros or upscale suburbs. Living in one of those, I can tell you that the family vehicle of choice of those for whom style is important and cost is no object is a Mercedes station wagon. If cost is an object, then the vehicle is apparently a VW Passat wagon. I would have thought a Volvo would be in there somewhere, but they apparently rate as being too high on the “baby on board!” scale. The only other thing that looks up and coming is a Subaru Forester with a 4-bike rack on the back. Now I guess the latter is technically an SUV, but it sure doesn’t look like one when parked next to (say) an Explorer.

  57. Today’s drivers never learned how to drive defensively. I was taught to plan my moves (and escape routes) several blocks ahead. That was possible before SUVs.

    SUVs create an arms race to maintain visibility against ever taller competition. One can’t even see a glimpse of traffic through their windows because dark (movie star or gangsta) tinting is now mandatory.

    The defensive style possible with similar vehicle heights has become offensive driving. Any safety advantage for SUVs is lost as they tangle in accidents caused by lack of visibility and exacerbated by their own lack of maneuverability.

    SUVs do serve a purpose. World population is unsustainable and is temporarily supported by petroleum. Conservation merely frees more resources for intemperate breeding so that more will eventually starve. Compassion requires that we exhaust the petroleum before too many more humans are born.

    A non-breeder consumes fewer resources and causes less pollution even if he drives a tank.

  58. I’ve got a fairly large SUV (Tahoe) that I bought because I needed the room (I’m a volunteer firefighter and at the time I was an assistant chief and needed to haul a lot of equipment). Six years later, I no longer need the room. I’d absolutely love an all-wheel-drive station wagon. I’m definitely looking for something like the Passat wagon, it’s the right size (especially considering I’ll have a student driver in the family in two short years) but a bit pricey. Why doesn’t Ford make an AWD Taurus wagon? I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

  59. its funny how the mere mention of ‘SUV’ gets peoples panties in a twist. this is one of the most retarded threads i’ve ever read — its filled with looser comments scrambling to justify their choices in automobile. How about a bike? How about NOT having a car? Or, what about banning SUV’s in urbane areas, since after all they do take up valuable street parking space.

    Come on people, get a grip.

  60. I drive a Subbie. Nice to know Phil thinks I’m a hip urbanite.
    Whenever I go to pick up my cousin from kindergarden, I’m the only one not in a huge honk’in SUV. These moms who are picking up their kids are so well groomed and stylish you’d think you were at the Emmy Awards. Big SUV=lots of cash. Even if you’re ugly you can still pay someone to make you look good. (Look at Celine Dion) I guess if you don’t want to look like a dork in a mini van, but you need the room, the next best thing is the SUV.

  61. As the owner of a Z-71 Suburban and someone that has owned many cars, honda, porsche, volvo, datsun, toyota, bmw, fiat, chevy, ford etc etc etc I must comment. 😉

    A truck is safer, and for those of use with lower back pain much more comfortable. I have two hernitated disc in my lower back, and getting in and out several times a day is much less painful in a truck. Additionally, some of us have too many things to fit into an economy car. Also, how do you get up and down step embankments that are made of mud in a “small car”? How do you cross streams? How do you tow a 9,000 lb boat? Where would one put their guns and ammo in an econo box?

    I don’t care what others think about what I drive. Why do so many people think “we” buy our transporation because of what others think of it?

    Geezz, get a life……………

  62. I didn’t miunderstand anything, Philip. Fashions for hip urbananites all over the country tend to be set by hip urbanites in New York and Los Angeles. So out of the 4 million people living in, say Atlanta, maybe 400,000 qualify. (This is the actual population of the city proper, so I’m being very generous in counting them all as hip!). The other 3.6 million live in the vast suburban wastelands. They drive unhip SUV’s. They live in very unhip subdivisions. They eat unhip food, have unhip hobbies, wear unhip clothing, vacation in unhip places and generally spend just about every dollar they make in ways that would be incomprehensible to twentysomething New Yorkers.

    Get outside major urban areas and the difference is even more striking. “Cool” is now pickup trucks more than SUV’s. Preferably with a Dale Earnhardt #3 bumper sticker.

  63. I’m with Charles. I traded my Accord for a Grand Cherokee 4×4 because the GC can get me to trailheads that the Accord couldn’t (I do a lot of mountain biking and camping). I like to have a little fun in the muck sometimes also. Unhip? If I’m unhip so be it. I never liked sloppy dress and sandals anyway.

  64. Actually, here in Miami (which has more than its share of hip people), SUVs are the rage. Cayenne, Gwagen, Escalade.

    The young people in NYC don’t have SUVs because they can’t park them, simple as that.

    I challenge anyone who’s driven an SUV for a while to get into a small sedan and tell me they feel safe. It’s a different perspective. Why do we live in 1,500 square foot houses when we could get by with a crammed studio? Same shit.

  65. Geez people, the number one reason people drive SUVs is that they’re good at holding a lot of stuff. We have a Toyota mini-van and a Ford Explorer to haul around our kids and dog and all associated stuff. The mini-van is what we use for long haul trips since it gets decent gas mileage. The Explorer is great for shorter trips, camping/paintball outings and bad weather. I like the high seating position. I like the fact that I can have a vehicle that I fit in (I’m 6’4″) and I like the fact that is some little smartass in a tiny car (many of which drive like total asses (especially you VW drivers)) decides to run into me, I’ll win. You feckless yuppies who bitch and complain can all bugger off. I know I use more gas than smaller cars. It’s a trade-off. I pay more at the pump, but I don’t endanger my kids by putting them in the back seat of a Geo Speck where they’re 6 inches from the back bumper. They are WAY too important to me to allow them to be squished in an inadaquately protected vehicle.

    My SUV is dog slow, but my 2000 Sienna is pretty quick considering the size. It has a 200 hp or so engine and moves out pretty quick.

    In closing, if I see any of you worthless ELF or Earth First types messing with my big gas-wasting vehicles in an attempt to impress your “values” on me, I’ll introduce you to my extremely unfashionable SIG P229. Nyah.

  66. Funny discussion topic, my dear fellow americans. This is all possible because you’re too rich. When many can afford SUV, many buy them.

    Imagine, I am a software engineer who earns 4x the average salary in my country. I lease Citroen Xsara (which is probably too small for you guys. Someone earlier in this thread said that he changed his Maxima because he gave two children. Come on, are they so big they can’t squeeze comfortably in a car which is perfectly comfortable for 5?) for 4 years and this is a huge pain for my family budget (and I don’t even have children!). Most cars around here in Estonia are of B class, and I think it’s only good.
    Yes, I am the environmentalist 🙂

  67. Oops, I found errors in my post 🙁 I hope you still understand me (English is not my native language, you know, there are some others in use on Earth 😉 )

  68. Webwench: Why thank you! 🙂 I’m a gun-toting, unix-slinging, pragmatic, Jeffersonian libertarian (please note: that’s libertarian with a small l).

  69. What side do I fall in? I live in suburban SoCal, our family vehicle is a reasonably-priced USED Suburban (gotta love that depreciation when you make it work for you), but I ride my bike *and* public transit (the Coaster train) to work. So I think my karma balances out, and we get by with one very practical vehicle rather than two. BTW, my wife stays home with our four kids, so the Suburban is really the practical choice, especially since we like to take grandparents along with us sometimes.

    Laughed out loud a number of times on this thread. My wife and I figured we’d rather be happy than single, cramped in a studio, and obsessed with how others see us.

  70. I have an XTerra. I see only 2 reasons to ever own an SUV. One is if you do real offroading. I climbed Mt. Shasta, and yes it required real 4WD to get down the road after a snow storm. The other thing is we used to have a big dog. SUVs can’t be beat if you own a big dog or two. We could tow him and a couple friends around in the back no problem.

    He passed on, and I dont climb as much anymore. Like others have mentioned, suddenly the thing isn’t so practical. It’s pathetic in my opinion that so many people own SUVs, and especially when I see families owning 2 or 3 huge vehicles. What an incredible sell job the car makers did on the public.

  71. I’m 35, live in a major metro area, and I drive a ’95 Miata R. Manual steering, sport suspension, aftermarket supercharger. I’ve had grey hair since I was 16 (less then 🙂 but I don’t feel unfashionably old. I think the whole idea of this post is bizarre. As if I or anyone I know is going to decide about something as important as our primary vehicle by looking at what some kid is doing. When you start seeing 35 and 40 year old people going about with their pants around their knees, beads braided into their goatees, ball caps with foot long brims pointed in a random direction, etc., then maybe you could get to that. But if mature adults don’t follow the youth fads even in the matter of hats, why for a 30-50 thousand dollar capital investment?

    As for the author’s alleged age-related bump sensitivity, I must assume that it’s idiosyncratic. I know too many 40+ and 50+ sports car (and motorcycle) drivers who love to tear it up on rough ground. My verdict: silly idea and sample set too small.

  72. I’m 23. I just purchased a 2003 Dodge Stratus Coupe. My middle aged co-workers all drive SUV’s and tried to convince me to also purchase one because it was practical. I told them their morons. I can sit 4 grown adults just fine in my vehicle, it has all the safety features you need for little kids in the back, and makes an SUV look like a sick elephant in handling. The trunk can fit 5 sets of golf clubs in the back and I make it through the snow just fine. Oh, and I get 32 mpg. Now that is my definition of practicality. (It’s a manual transmission, you’d be amazed at how much you can coast).

  73. Who cares whether SUV’s are cool? I tow boats, take Wolfhounds to dog shows, hunt, fish, camp, haul plywood and building materials. Have a BMW, drive the Suburban, get 17+ on the road and comfortable doing it.

    Rest of you, buy what you want – ok with me!

  74. Why did you buy your SUV?

    Maybe you don’t buy all that nonsense about global warming. So you should probably be driving a GMC Denial. Maybe you believe that Ford is actually going to come through on their commitment to release a hybrid SUV by 2003, so you’re driving their new model, the Excuse. Maybe you’re just paying Tribute to global warming in a Mazda.

    Perhaps you don’t care that your SUV will compromise the quality of life of generations to come, including your children, so you’ve chosen a Ford Exploiter or Excretion, a Toyota FoulRunner, or a GMC Bummer.

    Or, you could be one of those that is not content with just polluting the air we breathe, but enjoy destroying other parts of the environment as well. In that case, you probably have a Trail Razer, Land Bruiser, or Path Grinder.

    Maybe sitting up high in your SUV is your only chance to feel “above the crowd”, so you proudly pollute in your Cadillac Escapade, Ford Exhibition, Mercedes NO Class, or GMC Gimme or Envy. You can intimidate the little people in their little cars in your Nissan Xterror or Lexus HellX. Careful that you don’t run into one of them in your Isuzu Ass-ender.

    Someone once said “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Hey, in a Jeep you can have both!

  75. I believe that SUVs get a bad rap. It isn’t the car models that need to change, it is the auto industry. There are many different types of autos being produced now that will cut down on fuel consumption and emissions. Everyone will be happy when this is completed.

  76. Hey, I’m all for SUVs. The faster we hit Peak Oil, the faster we’ll quit killing off this planet. I just hope we don’t do too much damage (between green house gases and possible nuclear wars) before it hits.

  77. I have nothing againts SUVs but:
    “The size of your car is inversely proportional to the amount of brain material you have”
    That’s my $0.02 !

    Cheers,

  78. you answered your own questions in your blog

    the people who are totally out of sync with fashion are the late adopters. the types of observations you make about style are completely lost on them. they do what advertizers tell them to do – they have no “social antennae”.

  79. There is nothing “new” about SUVs–They’ve been around since the 30s–They are nothing more than pickup trucks with a cab and seat in the back–OhWOW–What a big deal!! BTW–I love my Twenty-0-Two Camaro

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