The Real SUV We Can’t Have

Nissan just announced a new SUV they’re not going to sell here.

It’s called the Terra – and the Chinese (and other foreign markets) will get it beginning next spring. Nissan’s Ashwani Gupta says there is growing demand in China for “go anywhere SUVs built like the rugged SUVs old” – which apparently are no longer in demand here.

This, of course, is claptrap. There is plenty of demand.

The problem is Uncle.

It is becoming extremely difficult to sell “go anywhere SUVs built like the rugged SUVs of old” because they are heavy and heavy means big engines and that means a hearty appetite for gas. This however isn’t a problem for the people who buy such vehicles; they are – presumably – ok with paying more for gas in exchange for the ruggedness and go-anywhere capabilities.

Else they would not buy them.

Just as people sometimes buy a bigger house rather than a small apartment – knowing the carrying cost is higher. So what? It’s their choice. And more to the point, it is their money paying the mortgage and the utilities. Just as the SUV buyer’s money – not the government’s money or anyone else’s money – is paying for the fuel that goes in the tank.

The market takes care of itself.

If a thing is burdensomely expensive for natural (market) reasons, then that thing becomes rare as a commodity for just that reason.

But never mind. Uncle – acting in loco parentis – believes we are using “too much” gas.

He therefore imposes taxes and other disincentives to artificially curb market demand for “rugged, go anywhere SUVs” – punishing you for daring to want what he thinks you ought not to have. As a result, “rugged, go anywhere SUVs” are already very few in number and mostly expensive models such as high-end Land Rovers.

Medium-small SUVs under $30k like the soon-to-be-here (well, soon-to-be-there) 2019 Terra are all but extinct in the United States.

We get crossover SUVs – which aren’t really SUVs because they are basically just jacked-up cars styled to look like SUVs. They are defined by not having rugged underthings, such as a four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and low range gearing. They have all-wheel-drive (without the transfer case and low-range gearing) meant for light snow on paved roads; maybe wet grass.

Most of all, they are defined by not having their drivetrains and suspensions cradled by rugged and so heavy steel frames, onto which their bodies are bolted – as real SUVs do.

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