Too big to fail
Despite plenty of public outcry, Americans are still driving big, hulking cars. What does our obsession say about us?
By Eva Connors
Normally, I bike. Due to inclement weather last week, I put my bike away and started walking to school. Since my apartment is just over a mile from campus, it was hardly an inconvenience; I actually enjoyed my daily commute. On a particularly pleasant afternoon, I was strolling down Lockwood Ave, taking in the scenery, when I saw it. It was oversized. It was ugly. It was obtrusive. It was a Hummer H2.
Hummers were the spawn of the military’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, shortened to HMMWV and pronounced ‘HumVee.’ They serve two main purposes – hauling lots of people and hauling lots of missiles. HumVees are slow, loud and huge.
Their gas mileage is in the single digits. They’re ugly, squat bricks on wheels; it looks like somebody dropped an elephant on them.
What I want to know is, who looked at one of those things and said to themselves, “Now THAT is the perfect vehicle for driving around town!”
Hummers aren’t the only offenders. Escalades, Armadas, Excursions, Yukons, Tahoes, Sequoias – I could go on all day listing the largely unnecessary (and unnecessarily large) hunks of steel I see people piloting down the roads every day. And for what? I have not heard a single decent excuse for owning a Suburban Assault Vehicle.
“It’s safer,” they’ll say. Until recent years, the safety ratings were much lower than smaller cars. Consumers might feel safer in an SUV than a tiny plastic car among the metal monstrosities, but it’s much harder to roll when you’re low to the ground.
“I need the room,” they’ll argue, even though the majority of people really have no use for that much space. There are families that need the extra row of seating, sure, but if you peer into the windows of almost any SUV careening down the highway, you’re bound to see no more than four people per vehicle, if that.
I’ve also been informed that you cannot fit much into a car, which is nonsense: ask my roommate from freshman year, who witnessed me cramming everything from my half of the room – which was quite a bit – into the back of my Civic.
“It’s good for driving off the road,” they’ll throw out, but so few people are willing to take their Sport Utility Vehicles off the precious safety of the pavement, it hardly counts as an argument at all.
A big reason SUVs are so expensive is because they’re built to handle the rugged mountain trails, but the owners turn around and complain that they spent all that money on their vehicle and don’t want it getting scratched up. I’ve yet to see any rough patches your standard four-door sedan couldn’t handle.
“It’s a status symbol,” they’ll scoff, but between the economy and “socially conscious” trend, nobody’s impressed by a bigger ride. Take a look at the used car lots around you and you’ll find seas of SUVs that were abandoned for more sensible daily drivers.
Reasons against owning the land boats, however, range from cost and fuel economy to the simple fact that SUVs take up a lot more room than the cars of the commonwealth. They don’t fit on the streets, they don’t fit in parking spaces and they don’t fit under low bridges or parking garages.
Of course larger vehicles have their uses. I’m in no way suggesting that everybody get Smartcars.
But unless you’re regularly hauling full-sized furniture or a family of seven, there is no reason you need 6,000 pounds to escort you to and from work.