Americans Embrace SUVs Again
By Mike Ramsey and Sharon Terlep
The sport-utility vehicle is making a comeback.
After being largely shunned during the recession, high-riding SUVs and workhorse pickups are regaining favor as U.S. consumers grow more confident and fuel prices remain below the $4 a gallon level that triggered a shift away from larger vehicles.
The rebound was clear Thursday as U.S. auto sales in November hit a 13.6 million annual pace, the strongest in more than two years, with sales of trucks and SUVs surpassing cars at many auto makers. The results are boosting Detroit auto makers that suffered when gas-guzzlers got the cold shoulder in 2008.
New technology has helped: I get slightly better gas mileage with my 2010 Ford F-150 STX 4×4, with a V-8, than I did with my 2000 F-150 XL 4×2, which had a V-6 engine. In fact, I’m getting slightly better gas mileage than the advertised window-sticker mileage: the Ford advertised fuel statistics are 14 miles per gallon in the city, and 19 MPG on the highway, (note: .pdf file) but I show a consistent 18.7 to 19.1 MPG on the dash readout, for all driving. (It does take a roughly 1 MPG hit in the summer, when I use the air conditioning.)¹
But even with better fuel economy, larger vehicles still require more fuel than do smaller ones. And that means that some people who simply know better than Americans in general how Americans ought to run their lives and take their decisions will feel the need to find a way to step in and force Americans to buy smaller vehicles.
Why do American like larger vehicles? They do so for lifestyle choices, such as having room for more passengers, a preference for sitting higher off the road, or, as was mentioned in the article but is also true for me personally, riding comfort for taller people. I’m 6’2″ tall, and I have to scrunch myself up to drive or ride in my wife’s 2002 Ford Mustang; but have plenty room in my truck. In addition, I actually use my truck as a truck, hauling all sorts of things, including a couch just last weekend.
But, whatever the reasons, the choices of the American people to buy larger vehicles are exactly that: freely taken choices, and we know that’s just a bad thing to a lot of busybodies.
¹ – I do maintain my truck properly, which also helps.