You Can Have My New SUV When You Peel My Cold, Dead Hands Off Its Leather Steering Wheel

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all well aware of the left-wing anti-car prudes, and their campaign
to drive those off us who enjoy big, powerful Sport Utility Vehicles
off of their subsidized roads.

Huffington, the one-time neoconservative, now a trendy leftist,
has given up her days driving around in limos and flying in private
jets in order to tool around — in front of TV cameras — in an embarrassing
little gas/electric hybrid vehicle with the acceleration of a Yugo.

sales deck is clearly stacked in favor of Detroit's beloved behemoths,
with billions being spent on SUV advertising and ever-more tempting
marketing come-ons, like GM's u2018Zero, Zero, Zero' program which was
introduced in December and offered no-interest financing on 13 of
its SUVs for up to 60 months – very tempting in these tough
times,” she harrumphed in one of her recent, and painful to read,
columns. Huffington is helping an ad campaign promote the theme
that driving an SUV is the equivalent of supporting Osama bin Laden
and terrorism

right, an Expedition today and a Weapon of Mass Destruction tomorrow.
I'm not surprised that Huffington, who has lived the life of a rich
social climber after marrying a man who inherited millions, knows
so little about markets. Yes, companies make vehicles, and they
– get this – advertise those vehicles to people who might
want them. People are tempted to buy them and the company makes
profits and the workers do too.

an outrage.

Huffington can have my 4,500-lb. bright blue Isuzu Axiom, with its
17-inch wheels and 230 foot-pounds of torque (I don't really know
what that means, but the vehicle moves like stink when I push the
accelerator) when she peels my fingers off the two-toned leather
steering wheel.

Huffington and her trendy friends ever think about why many people
like to drive SUVs? I know, it's not something that quickly comes
to their minds. Let's see. It's called children. Yes, some of us
have them, multiple numbers even. When we go places, we like to
take them with us, and we like them to be comfortable so they don't
complain the whole trip.

that in a Honda Civic.

we take our big, smelly dog with us, and it's nice if he can sit
way back there, rather than on our laps. I think it's illegal to
strap dogs to the roof rack or to stick them in the trunk in one
of those little sedans. Now I know Huffington can hire servants
to do this for her, but some of us actually drive our vehicles to
places named Home Depot, Costco, Albertson's and Wal-Mart, and fill
them with stuff, and it's nice to have seats that fold down so we
can fit all that stuff inside the vehicle.

people, my wife in particular, like to sit a little higher than
in a tiny car, so they can see the road ahead of them with greater
ease. Others like the idea that if they get in an accident, they
at least have a sporting chance of leaving the vehicle with all
internal organs still functioning properly.

one other thing, SUVs look pretty nice, with their flared fenders,
big wheels, stylish interiors and gobs of freeway-merging horsepower.
That's why most people prefer them to anemic minivans and station

a supposedly free country, shouldn't individual Americans be free
to make such choices?

finally, for the point of my tirade.

bad enough that we have to put up with the Enviro-Prigs, but some
good, solid free-market people are dissing the glorious Detroit
auto show, such as Gary North in his article on
Thursday about buying used cars. I'm a free-market guy, so if North
wants to drive around in a 12-year-old Chrysler minivan, that's
his business. He's absolutely right that it's wise to shop for bargains
and to avoid extravagances if one wants to increase one's net worth.
But he's forgetting a few practical and not-so-practical points
about the joys of new vehicles.

  1. Safety:
    Old cars break down more than newer ones, which increases the
    chances that my family will find itself in a dangerous situation.
    People die frequently on the LA-area freeways when they stall
    in traffic. Fast car meets stopped car equals death and maiming.
    Worse yet, some people in stalled vehicles try to get out of
    them and get hit by motorists who don't see them. My solution
    is to drive newer cars that are more reliable.

  2. Convenience:
    Mr. North might not mind taking his old beater to seven different
    repair shops to get estimates, but I have more productive and
    fun things to do with my limited time on Earth.

  3. Predictability
    in one's budget: North is right that keeping an old car together
    with bubble gum always is cheaper than taking a depreciation
    hit on newer cars. But I've tried the new and old car routes.
    I prefer budgeting $300 a month on a late-model car, which requires
    few additional expenses beyond routine maintenance, than to
    have no payment, but have those $1,200 transmission bills crop
    up unexpectedly and sap my savings.

  4. Comfort:
    That's got to be worth something. Southern California traffic
    is a breeze with the CD on, the air conditioning humming, and
    the power seat adjusted just so. It's almost enough to make
    one forget what a nightmare this state is turning into.

  5. Cars are
    fun: That, too, is worth something. Driving around in something
    that screams “powerful” or “fun” is a rebuke to the Puritans
    who run around insisting that anything that isn't done in the
    name of Mother Earth is evil. That's a big part of the creativity
    and energy that goes into the car shows, including those outrageous
    vehicles – i.e., a Maserati SUV – that North complains

all means, one should only drive what one can afford. Getting upside-down
in a car loan isn't good financially. If a car is running well,
it's ridiculous to trade it in. One ought to think about productive
investments before sinking too much money into some ridiculously
high-priced vehicle.

despite that, new (or late model used) cars aren't necessarily a
bad investment when one considers the whole picture, and if one
is willing to shop carefully. Plus there's that certain joy in driving
down the freeway in a nice, late-model SUV knowing that its mere
existence is a huge annoyance to the modern-day Puritans who want
to tell us how to live.

18, 2003

Greenhut (send him mail)
is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County
Register in Santa Ana, Calif.


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