Friday, September 21, 2007


I suppose that everyone has heard or made a comment on the ostentatious consumption of those with a high level of disposable income - most notably, those that drive vehicles like Hummers, the extra-large SUVs (such as the Yukon, Suburban, Navigator, and the like).

While I'm not a big fan of such monstrosities, I can understand that they do meet a certain specific designed function: the (perhaps theoretical) capability of going places that most other vehicles can't. By way of illustration, the original Hummer was the military version that was designed to meet the needs of ground forces. I wasn't surprised when there was a civilian version developed - after all, the military aren't the only ones that need to get from point "A" to point "B" regardless of what terrain might be between them.

Similarly, the SUV (which is short for Sport Utility Vehicle, after all) was designed with the idea that the owner/operator had the need to travel places where there weren't any roads, and other rough terrain - say, a rancher that needed to get himself and a small-ish crew to a remote location, surveying crews, and so on.

However, these vehicles have pretty much lost all claim to 'sport' or 'utility' for the simple reason that far too few of them are used for either of those purposes. I've taken to really observing the SUVs that I see, and I daresay that for the vast majority of them, the closest they've been to 'off road' has been when the owner accidentally ran one of the tires into a flowerbed. I mean, really: would a rational, normal person that intended to take a vehicle off road and into conditions that could conceivably cause damage to the outside of it give it a fancy paint job? Or rig it with all that shiny chrome? I sure as hell wouldn't!

I'm reminded of a supervisor I had at the first job I had when I got out of the Navy: he'd gone out and bought a fancy Jeep with 4-wheel drive that was capable of taking him just about anywhere he wanted to go - he was into fishing and hunting, and some of his favorite spots to engage in these activities were fairly remote. The problem was that his shiny new Jeep also came with a fairly elaborate paint job on the hood (an eagle), pinstriping, and a pretty snazzy basic paint job. The net result was that he didn't dare take the damn thing off the road in case anything scratched it!

Something else that I've noticed about the majority of the SUVs I've seen on the road is that it is very rare to see more than a couple of people in them - in fact, most often, it's one person driving (in the case of a Soccer Mom, she might have a kid or two in the back). That's hardly the efficient use of resources (not just the fuel to drive these monsters, but the energy and materials needed to MAKE them) that I like to see. I've heard a number of different justifications why people 'need' these behemoths, but none of them really works:

  • I need 4-wheel drive (fine - there are smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that have that, if not ALL wheel drive)
  • I need the space (what? for you and one or two other people?)
  • They're safer (maybe for you when you get into an accident because the damn things have so much inertia that you can't stop them on wet/icy/snowy road, but whoever you run into is probably fucked)
  • I need the capacity (sure, maybe once or twice a year; it'd be cheaper to rent a U-Haul those times)

No, I figure people buy the damn things purely to be seen in them: they can drive a monster like that, so they're damn well going to, regardless of any other consideration.

Oh, that FEBF that's the title for this post? Some little old ladies once hit W.C. Fields up for a donation to some charity or other; he told them that the only organization that he gave money to was F.E.B.F. The granny-ladies made the mistake of asking him what it meant - and he politely explained that it stood for Fuck Everybody But Fields.


Anonymous said...

We are one of the people who truly NEED a 4 wheel drive. An all wheel drive just doesn't cut it in the mud. When the weather is good and it is just the kids and me we take the Outback but if Sam comes too we need the 4 door truck. the kids wouldn't be very happy 3 across the back set of the Outback. The people that think the need a 4 wheel drive just drive the price up for those of us that truly do need the 4 wheel drive.

Sam's Darling Wife

Dave said...

I'm going to go WAY out on a limb here, and say that I'll bet none of your 4WD vehicles looks like it just came off the showroom floor, either :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether you're against the 2WD SUVs or only the 4WD ones, or both.

Our SUV is only 2WD, but it's definitely bigass and "luxury" class. Contrary to what people might assume by the brand name and cost of the thing, I actually use it almost every day to haul bigass stuff in the back. Mulch, bags of soil and other garden items, big tools, concrete blocks, and various other nasty, dirty, outdoorsy or construction-related items. I put in a heavy-duty plastic liner thingy right after we bought it; haven't really had the back seats upright since. I don't like people, so I don't want them in the car with me. Heh.

Why, you may wonder, didn't we just get a bigass pickup truck? Because sometimes we like to take Dogliness on a road trip and there's no way in hell I'd put a dog o' mine in the back of a pickup.

I do feel safer in the bigass 2WD SUV, and I like not having to rent a u-haul every time I want to buy 40 bags of mulch or a huge 200 lb planter or mechanical equipment or a generator or whatever. (Things I have hauled, just lately.)

Dave said...

Reading your blog, I know that you actually use your vehicles 'utility' capabilities - and that's fine (like you need/want my approval :-) )
I'm not against SUVs of either variety - only against the egomaniacs that buy them and then don't use them for what they were designed/intended for. It's the folks that buy a Yukon or Navigator or (WTF?) Mercedes SUV for the sole purpose of hauling themselves and their Precious Spoiled Darling around that irk me.
It's kind of like buying a Maserati, and then only driving it to the grocery store...