Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What an SUV Really is

People concerned about the environment and highway safety have been railing against SUVs (Super Unhealthy Vehicles) for some time now. They write impassioned letters to the editor begging drivers to stop buying them. Reporters write column after column detailing just why these vehicles are Evil: Bad Gas Mileage! Poor Safety Records! Tendency to Roll Over! Harms Other Smaller Vehicles! Blocks Vision of Other Drivers! Pulverizes Cars of Other Drivers! And so forth. And many people have noted that these vehicles are designed for off-road "sports" type of occasions where you have a gun rack and return home with a carcass. Instead people are just using them to drive faster on icy highways with the 4-wheel-drive feature. (Which is why you see so many SUVs positioned at crazy angles after they slide onto the median.) It is the fashion equivalent of showing up at work in climbing gear in case a mountaintop blizzard should break out right in your cubicle. Never mind that the entire box of office doughnuts plunged to the floor when it got caught on your ice pick as you lumbered past! Well I'm here to tell you something about all these Guilt Campaigns you have been mounting to get people out of their SUVs. IT ISN'T WORKING. I haven't done any scientific surveys, but I have been out on the road. Surrounded by SUVs. None of whose drivers look guilty. Some of them are busy swatting their kids in the back seat, but they are not planning hunting and fishing trips. People who do that wouldn't be caught dead in an SUV. They buy rugged looking pickups. So I'm going to offer you free of charge a public relations campaign that is more likely to get people to stop buying SUVs. In fact they will probably trade them in the next day as soon as this campaign gets underway. Here it is, in all its glorious simplicity. The next time you see an SUV owner, take a good look at the vehicle, admire it a bit, and then say to the proud owner: "I like your STATION WAGON." It is important to say this loudly enough so that everyone else can hear it, so it has a fuller effect. The owner will blanch, of course, make a nervous laugh, and then point out the obvious, "This is an SUV!" At which point you will chuckle, slap this person on the back and say, "These things are for carting kids around. The automakers may be building them bigger so they can charge you more every time you need a tire, but it's still a STATION WAGON. Anytime anyone sees these on the road they think STATION WAGON WITH BIG WHEELS." If the owner does not immediately run screaming into the house, he or she may start calculating the trade-in value before you leave the premises. Be sure to keep this up everywhere you go. "Nice STATION WAGON!" you should yell out every time someone's window is rolled down. Once these owners realize they are not fooling anyone, they may give up their gas-guzzling, safety-challenged, road-hogging vehicles. They will be forced to stuff their kids into the glove compartment of a Corvette. Note: I drive a full-sized van that could crush an SUV. I call it my Partridge Family Vehicle, so I am immune to any status-conscious ploys. Actually I would like one of those big old station wagons with the wood grain paneling. Then everyone would know it was us when they saw us driving around town!

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