SUV vs. Pickup

I realize I’m late in linking to this, but I was watching that bizarre commercial put out by the people at esuvee.com. I don’t follow accident statistics much, but from an engineering perspective, SUVs and Pickups are damn near identical. Are the accident rates for the two vehicle types that different? I confess to ignorance.

Anyhow, I’m always confused by the ire that people direct at SUVs. I drive a full-size Chevy extended cab pickup. Functionally, the only difference between my truck and a Suburban is that the Suburban has more sheet metal and seats. Big inefficient gas guzzling engine? Yup. Tall enough to block other drivers’ views? Yup. Heavy enough, especially when fully loaded, to crush some compact car like a bug? Yup. Grossly underutilized most of the time? Yup. All of the traits that annoy people about SUVs are shared by pickup trucks. In fact, where I usually drive, there are more pickups than SUVs. Why do people get so annoyed about SUVs and not trucks? I’m frankly baffled.

So you have people like Jane Galt, who thinks SUVs have significant negative externalities. Her approach seems to presume some sort of baseline automobile that all other should be compared to determine the possible externalities. She does note, however, the difficulty of distinguishing an SUV from a light truck for regulatory purposes. Maybe I’m simple, but if you can’t clearly explain the difference maybe there isn’t enough of one to matter.

Another issue that I think gets lost in this debate is the assumption that because a vehicle doesn’t spend some nebulous percentage of usage packed to the gills and fully loaded it’s being wasted. Which, while technically speaking true, is completely irrelevant. Haven’t you nimrods ever heard of surge capacity? I don’t need the capability a pickup truck provides every day. In fact, for my daily transportation needs my motorcycle is a better choice. However, I do need the truck’s capabilities often enough to justify owning one. When I need a pickup truck, almost nothing else will suffice. There are few, if any, other vehicles with the flexibility to handle my varied automotive needs. Similarly, I can make the not terribly farfetched assumption that people who drive SUVs may need the capacity of an SUV at some times on a frequent enough basis to justify the purchase. The rest of the time they may not need it, but they can’t afford two cars.

Of course, I tend to resist utilitarian arguments of this nature, simply because I don’t think anyone out there is at all qualified to tell me what I need at any given moment. The minute you let some government jackass in an office somewhere determine what you can have based on what he thinks you need, you’re perilously close to a socialist totalitarian hell.


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