WSJ Front Page–Americans Embrace SUVs Again

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.

Makes this heart sad–read it all; KSH.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Personal Finance

50 comments on “WSJ Front Page–Americans Embrace SUVs Again

  1. Capt. Father Warren says:

    Once again American consumers are voting with their dollars: many don’t want the eco-friendly econo-boxes which environmentalists and liberals so dreamily swoon over (while flying around in private jets and being driven in limos). And they for sure don’t want Chevy Volts burning down their garages.

    I drive an econocar because it makes sense for me (frequent trips by myself). But for my son, his wife, and their three kids (fourth on the way), they need a van, and a full-sized one to travel. He drives my old econocar to work however.

    Now what Detroit has done through technology is make the term “gas-guzzler” obsolete. A large SUV does not consume any more gas [i]per unit of work done[/i] than a small car. The SUV hauls its mass plus passangers and cargo just as efficiently, and in some cases perhaps more efficiently, than the econocar.

    Liberals know that SUV’s are quite efficient, which is why they LOVE CAFE fuel standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). Get CAFE hurdles high enough and that will legislate away the SUV even though the SUV is performing as well as the econobox.

    It’s called socialistic utopia. And so if you are sad to see the sales of SUV’s, bought by the folks who decide they want them, then you are buying into the utopia the socialists are working to slam down on all of us.

  2. Jeremy Bonner says:

    Well that puts you in your place, Kendall. 🙂

  3. Mark Baddeley says:

    Yep, Kendall as a socialist utopian. Is it April the 4th and I didn’t realize?

  4. Cennydd13 says:

    We’ve got two vehicles, one of which is a 2004 Pontiac Montana stretched minivan, which we use for for hauling large loads of groceries, etc. It’s pretty good on gas mileage, and doesn’t get used all that often. The other vehicle is a 2005 Ford Freestyle crossover SUV, and its gas mileage is comparable to most econoboxes; at least as far as I’m concerned. We bought both of them used (our days of buying brand-new vehicles are long gone) The Freestyle is our around-town Church-going errand-running car.

  5. Milton Finch says:

    It was great when prices were over 4 dollars a gallon that we put 20 dollars a week in the vehicle and on every 4th week, we didn’t have to put any in at all. We love the wisdom of buying our Honda Civic hybrid in 2005. It still does us nicely with almost 50 miles per gallon. I still get irked at seeing one person per tank no matter what utopia is disliked. I like the idea of 7 billion people thinking alike that resources must be looked after the more we crowd together. Bikes would be better. 🙂

  6. BlueOntario says:

    I have to agree that milage has improved. The crew-cab Silverado I now use to haul wood and whatever gets about the same milage as my 18 year-old Ranger, but now I can also bring my whole family to help load/unload instead of 2/5ths of it. That said, I’d have liked to have purchased a hybrid version but none were available in the area.

    Regarding the Volt, from what I’ve read it’s not that it’ll mysteriously burn down your garage, but that the battery may be incur enough damage after an accident to catch on fire. IIRC, gasoline powered vehicles sometimes do that too. Perhaps with newer, less familiar things it is easier and more fun to point out potential problems and that we just shrug and accept the familiar.

  7. evan miller says:

    I drive a 13 year old Lexus LS 400 and my wife drives a six year old Highlander. The Highlander gets better mileage. We live on a farm with a dirt road and a 4×4 is a necessity most winters. In defense of SUV’s, other than the older Volvo’s, I don’t know of any cars that offer comparable all round visibility or crashworthiness.

  8. Cennydd13 says:

    Nor versatility. I can’t load my travelling wheelchair into the trunk of a sedan, but I have no problem with loading it in the back end of either my minivan or my crossover SUV.

  9. scott+ says:

    The SUV is a safer vehicle, so long as there are trucks on the road smaller cars are not the answer. I learned to drive in a very small car but never went on the freeway. It was fun to drive, however, I would not feel safe in that car on the freeway.

    So long as there are trucks on the road the answer is drill baby drill.

  10. Cennydd13 says:

    Where we live, it’s much more common to see pickups, SUVs, and crossover SUVs than econoboxes at places like Costco or big box stores for the simple reason that we live in an agricultural and ranching area, and small cars just aren’t all that popular, except for around-town use, and they’re OK if you only have to drive a relatively short distance to and from work. Otherwise, you’ll feel beat half to death after driving 100+ miles to and from work…..such as from here to Silicon Valley and back. That’s when an SUV is much better.

  11. Teatime2 says:

    For those worried about safety, my little Saab sport wagon is a safety award-winner! And the hatchback allows me to carry all sorts of bulky things 🙂 I was glad to see the return of the hatchback — I need one so I can get my walker in my vehicle.

    I can understand why people with large families or disabilities need an SUV to haul kids or mobility devices. And, of course, I fully understand why farmers/ranchers/construction workers need large trucks. But it burns my biscuits to see a white collar family of two having his and hers SUVs. Sorry, but that’s just wasteful, poor stewardship, and road-clogging selfishness. I hate being stuck behind the slow-moving behemoths.

  12. Cennydd13 says:

    The only slow-moving road-hogging behemoths……besides farming vehicles…….that we have around here are tractor-trailer rigs, and most of them are found on State Rte 152 leading through town from Highway 99 to Interstate 5. They’re especially bad during rush hour, but if there’s a Tule fog present, you don’t want to be on the road at all!

  13. Teatime2 says:

    Cennydd, Never been stuck behind Suburbans and Navigators? It’s the pits. They and their drivers lumber along in a far less than nimble fashion, seemingly hellbent on ruining other people’s driving pleasure.

    They’re especially bad in inclement weather. Their drivers have a false sense of security, they go too fast on slick roads and are affected by strong winds. The chassis is large, rigid and not very responsive. Aside from a semi jack-knifing near me, nothing else has scared me as much as these Suburbans and Navigators spinning uncontrollably on the freeway and smashing into other cars. You just need to get out of the way — fast.

  14. Yebonoma says:

    I am beginning to think that some drivers of small, hybrid cars have the equivalent of small dog syndrome. See, for example, this Prius driver completely losing it over a guy with a large, diesel pickup truck. LANGUAGE ALERT – the Prius driver uses some very not nice language.

    You Tube link is

    BTW, has anyone every seen a Prius with either a NRA or “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker. Hmmm – maybe it’s just a coincidence.

  15. Cennydd13 says:

    The thing that really irks me about some of the drivers of these big SUVs is that if they jack them up with lifts, they tend to blind the drivers ahead of them when they turn their headlights on……..even if their lights are on low beam. They only think of themselves and no one else on the road. And when I’m on the road, the only driver I trust is [b]ME.[/b]

  16. William S says:

    3 dollars a gallon. Poor old you! I’ve been trying to convert UK petrol prices to the US equivalent (Litres to US gallons and sterling to dollars). If my calculations are right, our average UK price for petrol works out at $5.88.

    I’ve never understood the attraction of a Prius, btw. My Honda Jazz (‘Fit’ in the US, I believe – conventional engine, so a fraction of the price of a hybrid) can return 60 miles to a (UK) gallon, which is still, I think 50 miles to the US gallon.

  17. Capt. Father Warren says:

    William, one of our econocars is a Honda Fit 5 speed. When we can find gasoline it will turn in just over 40 miles per US gallon. Unfortunately most of what we get is “feel good”, politically-correct 90/10 gasoline-ethanol which drops mileage down toward 35mpg. And it is comfortable for the two us when driving between south Mississippi and Nashotah, WI……about 1,100 miles one way.

  18. Cennydd13 says:

    Remember, too, that distances here in the U.S. are often far greater than in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and therefore an economy car isn’t usually as comfortable to drive or ride in. Bodily comfort means a lot when one has to travel such long distances even to get to work. As I said earlier on this thread, one can feel beat half to death if one has to endure a long time in an econobox, and that’s another reason why SUVs and minivans are important to so many of us. For this reason, I’m willing to bear the price of gasoline.

  19. Cennydd13 says:

    Oh, and don’t drive on a freeway in that teeny little thing for two pepole that Mercedes Benz builds, unless you have a death wish. It’s a good way to get smeared all over the road when you get hit by an eighteen wheeler!

  20. Cennydd13 says:

    Who can’t see you because that thing you’re driving is so hard to see in his rearview mirror!

  21. Deep Freeze says:

    Canada’s larger than the US and I’d be happy to travel coast to coast with my wife in her MINI.

  22. Cennydd13 says:

    I’ve driven across the country on the Trans-Canada Highway, and that’s where a minivan really shines. Can’t do that in an econobox without feeling cramped and stiff after a while. Don’t try driving on the Alcan in an econobox…’ll be sorry!

  23. Cennydd13 says:

    Best to do that in a motorhome……a big one. And take your toolbox with you.

  24. Deep Freeze says:

    Have you been on the ALCAN highway recently? I haven’t, but I’ve been told that it’s all paved now and the probability of getting a broken windshield is quite low. I don’t know what you mean by econobox (some “cheap” vehicles are physically quite large), but I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it in a small car.

  25. Cennydd13 says:

    It depends on how far you want to drive between rest stops, eateries, and motels. I’d rather take my motel with me……either a motorhome or a bed in a minivan. And you don’t want to get into an argument with a bull moose when you’re driving a small car……or any other vehicle.

  26. Cennydd13 says:

    “Econobox” is any small car.

  27. Deep Freeze says:

    So “econobox” includes many of the world’s most expensive and desirable cars?

  28. Don C says:

    Deep Freeze, I drove my friend’s Mini Cooper-S from Chapel Hill, NC to Boston, MA once (about 700 miles). Never again. My back wasn’t the same for 3 months.

    This is not necessarily an indictment of smaller cars. The Mini’s seats have no lower back support. I’m sure that the stiffer “S” suspension didn’t help.

  29. Deep Freeze says:

    For me, comfort hasn’t been a problem, but I’m sure other people’s mileage varies. I doubt that any correlation can be established between a vehicle’s external dimensions and the comfort of its seats.

  30. Milton Finch says:

    Seats these days are ergonomically correct. I guess it’s okay to waste gas if one wishes to do so. I can understand vehicles for farm chores and many, many people. It is the single hogs that should rethink things for the stewardship of those resources God has blessed us with.

  31. Cennydd13 says:

    I prefer not to drive a small car on the freeway for several reasons, one of which is that if you either are passed by a big rig or bus, or if you attempt to pass one at highway speed, you are usually find yourself being buffeted by wake turbulence. It’s about the same as driving through a pass and being buffeted by strong crosswinds, and yes, the same thing will happen if you’re driving a lightly loaded minivan…….I experience that quite often; the point being that a light vehicle is affected more than a heavier one. The same is true of big rigs, and I’ve seen many a jackknifed rig on the highway because of high crosswinds. A friend and neighbor who is a CHP officer tells me that light vehicles are not as safe as larger and heavier ones, and I agree with him.

  32. Teatime2 says:

    I moved to Texas from New Hampshire driving a Geo Metro convertible, lol. This was pre-Lupus and pre-Crohn’s Disease but I had no physical side effects or problems at all, aside from the cop who was just waiting for “no seat belt required” New Hampshirites to cross over into his “seat belt required” state, grrrr. My last contribution to the finances of the North

    I was a little kid during the oil crisis but still remember the rationing and lines at the gas pumps. It made an impression I will never drive more car than I need. As for safety, it’s extremely windy where I live much of the time (hence, the wind farms). Most of the wrecks involve SUVs. They’re not aerodynamic and they’re terrible in our winds — the extra weight isn’t a help. It just makes the thing harder to control.

  33. Milton Finch says:

    I’m with you, Teatime. I’ve also noticed that as time has progressed, aerodynamics have also. The smaller the vehicle, the less the wind resistance. 50 miles per gallon equals two or even three times the hogs that would desire their way. I am blessed with a horrible back, and those seats in my civic rival any of the larger ones that I may happen to slide around in with all the room that they provide.

  34. Sarah says:

    What an interesting thread.

    I’m very pleased and thankful for the SUV and happy that we still have some semblance of a free market that still allows people to make decisions to buy these vehicles and allow Detroit to actually sell a few cars [after all, the Volt hasn’t been “the people’s choice” it seems].

    Most of our K9 Sar team drives SUVs . . . I’m one of the few without one [and believe me, if I had the change, I’d buy one!].

    I’m single with no kids — and when I add SAR gear, dog, big rubber tank and water coolers [for instant cooling during summer searches] . . . I’m jam packed and it’s tough to use or access. I’d love to have an SUV so that I can put my crate in the back and have the extra ventilation for the dog during waits, along with all of my other gear.

    I once did 1000 miles in 24 hours — out in Texas, Western Kansas, and Oklahoma — had multiple meetings and flew into Oklahoma City, drove into Texas, drove back into Oklahoma, up to Kansas, then back to Oklahoma City to fly home.

    I determined after that that I’d be renting the large size cars from then on. I know nothing about seats and ergonomics, but the car simply beat my body up — low to the ground, small, and with very little shock absorbency. The shift to the large cars for future work travel and meetings made a nice difference in comfort, even for the short trips.

    The big gift out of that, though, was when my rolling migraines wouldn’t stop several days later, I made the choice between my first rolfing or muscle relaxants. The rolfing — chosen with much fear and trepidation — won, and after *that* experience, I’ve had several more and am planning another one to round out my December — he’s the man! ; > )

    We’re a big country with big dreams, and many of us live in our cars for business and volunteer efforts that require tons of hauling and storage. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have large trucks, SUVs, and big cars.

  35. Milton Finch says:

    Dreams are wonderful. Not having enough gas to go around is another thing all together. Keep keeping on with all of everyone’s dreams. Think smartly and keep those dreams carrying on further.

    Go big…lose dreams.

    Go intelligently…go longer.

    No easier or simpler way to say it.

  36. Sarah says:

    RE: “Not having enough gas to go around is another thing all together.”

    Yup — thankfully there’s plenty of that, so no need to worry.

    RE: “No easier or simpler way to say it.”

    Yeh — pretty easy to say, that’s for sure!

  37. Milton Finch says:

    Go into your yard and pick up all the limbs and sticks in one day. Then burn them.

    Go into your yard tomorrow and pick all those limbs and sticks that remain…and burn them.

    Take that, doing that every day, into the next month. You will have a pretty clean yard, with no sticks. Next, invite all your neighbors to pick up the limbs and sticks that you seem to have cleaned out over the last month. Continue to invite them to clean up your limbs and sticks for the next year.

    Burn those.

    There is enough to go around four everyone, I am sure.

  38. Milton Finch says:

    If we are to be considered conservative, shouldn’t we be conservative in all things?

  39. aldenjr says:

    In November, 2000 we bought our first Prius and I drove it over 250,000 miles before flipping it to my son in 2006. I am now on my third, having logged almost 600,000 miles on Prius Hybrids since 2000. My wife drives a 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV with 155,000 miles. Since 2000, we have saved approximately 21,000 gallons of gasoline (worth about $50,000) versus what we were driving before we switched to hybrids in 2000. I love my Prius (45+ MPG) and my wife loves her Highlander (25+ MPG) and, although we log over 80,000 miles per year on average, we don’t have any physical problems with driving the cars. Together, these cars have improved our fuel economy from 19.5 MPG to 35 MPG. Over these eleven years we have ferried our three kids from elementary school to college – carrying all kinds of loads. I passed my old Prius to my kids in college and the cars continued saving gasoline for them as they continued to drive more than 300,000 miles. The amount of fuel we have saved literally paid for two of my three Prius over the eleven year period.

    My point is that oil is a finite resource and it will eventually become harder and harder to procure. It also does damage to the environment. The good news is that technology allows us to save energy and the environment. Rather than pooh-pooh these technolgies as some have done on this blog, it is better for all of us to support new technology.

  40. In Texas says:

    I for one was very glad to be driving my 2010 Ford Escape with all wheel drive when ascending Wolf Creek Pass (over 10,800 feet elevation) during a blizzard with 1 foot per hour of snow coming down. Speaking of gas, the US should be the largest oil producing country within 10 years (ND alone has enough oil and to run the country for a 100 years or so, not even counting the recent shale oil reserves discovered in eastern Ohio), unless the far out enviros block fracking.

  41. aldenjr says:

    “I passed my old Prius to my kids in college and the cars continued saving gasoline for them as they continued to drive more than 300,000 miles. ” I should have said the first Prius survived to over 300,000 miles and the second one has over 250,000 miles and is still being driven by my daughter.

  42. Deep Freeze says:

    In Texas (#40), does that mean there’s really reason to build that pipeline from the Alberta tar sands?

  43. Deep Freeze says:

    Do no auto enthusiasts frequent this blog? The main reason I have no desire to drive an SUV, truck or minivan is because they’re boring pedestrian conveyances. As a side benefit, most of the vehicles that do interest me have better gas mileage.

  44. Deep Freeze says:

    I might be caught dead in a Prius, but that would only be because I would find the challenge of hypermiling interesting from an engineering perspective and would be curious to know what kind of mileage I could actually achieve. The Prius drivers who have whizzed past me on the Interstate at high speeds leave me totally baffled. They’re getting the worst of both worlds: driving a car that is ugly and boring and not achieving nearly the gas mileage it is capable of. Now I’ve probably offended everyone. Probably a good time to go to bed.

  45. Sarah says:

    RE: “Do no auto enthusiasts frequent this blog?”

    ; > )

    Seriously, if I had the money, I’d have the SUV to deal with my practical hauling issues, *and* also have one of my favorites from the late 1940s [with a mechanic on-call]. I’m not much of a fan of most cars of today from a design standpoint.

    But sadly, I have to be practical, which means I have a good medium-sized sedan, bought used, barely large enough for the volunteer/job duties, which I am happily driving into the ground. Love my car and it’s been a dream from the standpoint of maintenance costs, and it’s now high-mileage too — and I bought what I could both afford and practically use. Any other car desires will be left until I make my first million.

    I’m just glad that Americans still have the options to purchase what they practically need and in keeping with their beliefs about resources and resource management, values, work and travel goals, family size, budgets, and bodies.

  46. Capt. Father Warren says:

    [i]I’m just glad that Americans still have the options to purchase what they practically need[/i]

    Which is a practical consequence of Freedom and Liberty; the Federal Government and faceless bureaucrats should not be telling us;

    1. What car/truck/motorcycle to buy
    2. What to eat/drink
    3. What to think
    4. What religion to follow or not follow
    5. What health insurance to buy or not buy

    Those are each, individual American’s choices to make; and each American then lives with the consequences of their choices.

    I’m sure everyone has seen the story about the woman with 15 children by three men: she’s furious about her situation and contends that “someone has to be held accountable for the mess her life is in”. Go look in a mirror lady…….

  47. aldenjr says:

    Capt. Deacon Warren.
    Your analogy of the women with 15 children does not really work here. We are putting far too much carbon in the atmosphere at a rate that is sustainable for the Earth’s climate. It is not us who drive gigantic cars with large emissions that will feel the pain, but the innocent and poor of the developing world; Africans, Bagladeshi, Maldavians, etc, who will realize the burden first, ne, already are. Likewise, if we use up the world’s access to cheap resources rapidly, it will not be the relatively wealthy of the world who will be pinched first. The rich will always be able to adjust, but if we use our resources more wisely, perhaps technology can transition all of us gently into the new order. My experience has shown that the energy savings from these technologies pays for their cost over time – but we need to have conviction to use them.
    It seems the great lesson we just learned through the recession was that when we use less fuel the price is somewhat contained as reduction in demand checks prices. From 2008, gasoline prices have remained in the $2.50 – $3.50 per gallon range, for the most part, and they are now falling back to the $3.00 mark. However, if we suddenly go back to the energy guzzling of the first half of the last decade we will again see price rises where gasoline started at $1.10 per gallon in 2002 and went to $4.00 by 2008 a change of almost 400%. Even the middle class of this country (let alone the developing world) could not afford a 6 year increase in fuels costs of that magnitude (400%) again – imagine prices at $12 to $13 per gallon by 2017. Why would we want that? But more importantly, who would be most hurt by that?
    I wish we had an ethic in this Christian country of ours to save energy and donate that savings to energy support for the people in the developing world. However, it seems that the claim that we should have the right to burn everything up we want takes precedence as a Christian principle, although I’m not sure where that is written in the Bible.
    “And the King said, Whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do also onto me.”

  48. Capt. Father Warren says:

    [i]It seems the great lesson we just learned through the recession was that when we use less fuel the price is somewhat contained as reduction in demand checks prices[/i]

    If you keep preaching the law of supply and demand, someone is going to come and take your liberal union card away from you.

    If your goal is cheaper energy, increase supply. In fact, if we increase the supply of our own energy then we don’t consume it from the rest of the world through imports. And we don’t flood the world with dollars which over time cheapens those dollars as the Fed conjuers up new magic dollars out of thin air. Those cheapened dollars mean the folks in all those places you mentioned pay more for oil and other commodities.

    The best thing America can do for the rest of world is to remain the bastion of freedom and liberty; the shining city on the hill. America as the place of freedom and liberty is part of God’s providential plan for mankind because America as a country of the free is the best eartly manifestation of God’s natural laws; that all men are created equal and endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights [freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness]. That America brings hope to freedom loving and seeking people around the globe. Funny how more people are STILL trying to get INTO American than out of America.

  49. Teatime2 says:

    Wow, #48. If America is “God’s providential plan for mankind,” we’re all in trouble. Somehow, I don’t think that God uses a manmade political system as a model for the world. He certainly didn’t when He walked the Earth, except to model His own ideas on how people should live. And America falls far short in that, too.

    Sheesh, I’m about as patriotic as the next person but to say we have the best policies and values because God planned it that way is breathtakingly arrogant in this day and age. So, what, Africa deserves corruption and genocide because they don’t use the American model and God doesn’t like them? Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the Gov. Winthrop rhetoric but that was persuasive speech aimed at nation-building and encouragement. If this nation is going to remain just and successful, we can’t believe our own good press. Arrogance and the belief in exceptionalism is partly to blame for the state of our affairs today.

    America didn’t invent democracy or justice. There were many centuries of building blocks in that endeavor for the Founding Fathers to study, adapt, and borrow. They didn’t write the Magna Carta, btw.

  50. Mark Baddeley says:

    Re: #48

    [blockquote] America as the place of freedom and liberty is part of God’s providential plan for mankind because America as a country of the free is the best eartly manifestation of God’s natural laws; that all men are created equal and endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights [freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness]. That America brings hope to freedom loving and seeking people around the globe.[/blockquote]

    This is why us Christians have a little thing called the canon of Scripture. To save us from this kind of speculation whether done by pentecostals or evangelicals, liberals or conservatives. The Word of God tells us what God’s plans for the nations are. Some nations are specifically mentioned as having a specific purpose. All nations are included in the generic purposes of nations described in various places. If your nation isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture (and it isn’t) then you have [i]no authority[/i] to speculate that it has [i]any[/i] special role in God’s providential care of his world. However unique America might or might not be in its constitution, it’s just another nation in God’s eyes as far as the Word of God is concerned.