More delightful proof positive that most SUVs are, in fact, morally repugnant. Go, America!
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Just in time for America's latest murderous war for oil, just in time to be reminded of exactly why our foreign policy is so horribly mangled and
debilitating and Saudi enslaved and terrorist ready ...
Just in time to crush a few thousand smaller cars and kill a bunch of pedestrians and poison the environment and still be able to traverse six feet of
standing floodwater in order to make it in time for Timmy's soccer game, it's the rollout of the new Hummer H2, the biggest joke of the entire SUV
world, representing, well, just exactly everything that's wrong with America's view of the world.
Oh come now. You know it's true. You've seen the magazine ads and you've ogled the billboards and maybe sat there sort of benumbed and sad as you
witnessed the noxious TV commercials that show the Hummer proudly spanking the soul of humanity and necessity and subtle intelligence. Grunt and
Have you ever wondered why sport utility vehicle drivers seem like such assholes? Surely it's no coincidence that Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, tours Washington in one of the biggest SUVs on the market, the Cadillac Escalade, or that Jesse Ventura loves the
Well, according to New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher's new book, "High and Mighty," the connection between the two isn't a coincidence.
Unlike any other vehicle before it, the SUV is the car of choice for the nation's most self-centered people; and the bigger the SUV, the more of a
jerk its driver is likely to be.
According to market research conducted by the country's leading automakers, Bradsher reports, SUV buyers tend to be "insecure and vain. They are
frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are
apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities. They are more restless, more sybaritic, and less
social than most Americans are. They tend to like fine restaurants a lot more than off-road driving, seldom go to church and have limited interest in
doing volunteer work to help others."
He says, too, that SUV drivers generally don't care about anyone else's kids but their own, are very concerned with how other people see them rather
than with what's practical, and they tend to want to control or have control over the people around them. David Bostwick, Chrysler's market research
director, tells Bradsher, "If you have a sport utility, you can have the smoked windows, put the children in the back and pretend you're still
Armed with such research, automakers have, over the past decade, ramped up their SUV designs to appeal even more to the "reptilian" instincts of the
many Americans who are attracted to SUVs not because of their perceived safety, but for their obvious aggressiveness. Automakers have intentionally
designed the latest models to resemble ferocious animals. The Dodge Durango, for instance, was built to resemble a savage jungle cat, with vertical
bars across the grille to represent teeth and big jaw-like fenders. Bradsher quotes a former Ford market researcher who says the SUV craze is "about
not letting anything get in your way, and at the extreme, about intimidating others to get out of your way."
Not surprisingly, most SUV customers over the past decade hail from a group that is the embodiment of American narcissism: baby boomers. Affluent and
often socially liberal, baby boomers have embraced the four- wheel-drive SUV as a symbol of their ability to defy the conventions of old age, of their
independence and "outdoorsiness," making the off-road vehicle a force to be reckoned with on the American blacktop.
But as Bradsher declares in his title, this baby boomer fetish is considerably more harmful than the mere annoyance of yet another Rolling Stones tour
or the endless commercials for Propecia. In their attempt to appear youthful and hip, SUV owners have filled the American highways with vehicles that
exact a distinctly human cost, frequently killing innocent drivers who would have survived a collision with a lesser vehicle. Bradsher quotes auto
execs who concede that the self-centered lifestyle of SUV buyers is apparent in "their willingness to endanger other motorists so as to achieve small
improvements in their personal safety."
After covering the auto industry for six years, Bradsher is an unabashed critic of sport-utility vehicles and the automakers that continue to churn
them out knowing full well the dangers they pose. He doesn't equivocate in his feeling that driving an SUV is a deeply immoral act that places the
driver's own ego above the health and safety of those around him, not to mention the health of the environment. Ironically, and though most
supposedly safety-conscious owners don't realize it, SUVs even imperil those who drive them.
[Edited on 17-1-2003 by Netchicken]