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Do SUVs still make sense?

2010 Chevrolet Equinox
Sometimes an SUV makes perfect sense. The 2010 Chevrole Equinox has a 32-MPG highway mileage rating in FWD form. (Photo: Chevrolet)

It seems that every time "the environment" or "global warming" pops up in a conversation, the first major cause people point to is the prevalence of SUVs on our highways. To be sure, more than a couple of years saw car sales fall below those of SUVs and light trucks. I suggest that this trend was based on cheap credit and an affinity for buyers to want to be "different" by purchasing the same thing everyone else did. To answer the question, I suggest that the rumors of the SUV's death are greatly exaggerated. People will continue to make vehicle purchases within their financial comfort level - for both purchase price and operating costs (that's gas to you and me).

What IS dead is the perception that big SUVs are hip, cool, or a must-have. I've said for more than a decade that if everyone bought what they NEEDED, the only vehicles on the lot would be a Malibu, a minivan and, and a pickup truck. Once upon a time, that was actually the case - most are too young to remember when you could get your Ford in any color, as long is it was black.

Sure, large SUVs eat more gas when driving down the road. And sure there are viable alternatives, like mini vans, station wagons, and so-called crossover (or car-based) smaller SUVs. But to point to them as the primary cause of the world's ecological woes is just as irresponsible as driving one child to soccer practice in a vehicle that holds seven people. Because if you're going to head down that road, you MUST also mention supersized air-conditioned movie theaters with ten thousand watt bulbs and sound systems, all boats, all swimming pools, all lawn mowers, and even all plasma televisions. Because let's face it, they're ALL symptoms of a prosperous modern society and all use more resources to manufacture and operate than our basic needs require...and let's not forget air conditioning for our homes - the biggest of all "common" luxuries.

People will continue to buy a vehicle that represents HOW they want to be portrayed. In many situations (if not most), buying a hybrid is fiscally irresponsible, and any true long-term benefit to our planet is still in question (where are all the batteries headed?). But people buy them because they want everyone to THINK they care about saving the world, when in reality it's their image that they are most concerned with. Or else why make the manufacturer take thousands of pounds of precious resources to build a vehicle just for them when the one they had was perfectly fine? It's image.

For some, they prefer to thumb their nose at critics and the environment and drive their Suburban back and forth to their private school with one child on board, while others opt for a small SUV that has the space and high driving position they enjoy, but still rates decent mileage. The Chevrolet Equinox has a 32-MPG highway mileage rating in front-wheel-drive form - better than many sedans. THEN it makes sense!

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