By on April 25, 2008

2008_hummer_range03.jpgCommentator menno posted this on the Oil Headed for $225 A Barrel? thread. It's a Hell of a good question, so I ripped it and started this discussion… "By the way, what’s the general consensus of our little group of avid TTACers, as to when the tipping point for the average Joe and Jane driver of America will be, causing them to say ENOUGH! and give up their [full size] SUV’s to go buy something a little more sensible?

$4 a gallon?

$5 a gallon?

$6 a gallon?

$7 a gallon?

or $8 a gallon?"

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89 Comments on “QOTD: What Gas Price Kills SUVs?...”


  • avatar
    tdoyle

    $5 per gallon will kill them since they are slowly wittling away at $3.50.

  • avatar
    AGR

    Full size SUV’s are making their way to the “slaughter house” with current gas prices, accompanied by rising food prices.

  • avatar
    Garak

    Well.. in Europe gas prices are already about 7-8$ per gallon, and people still buy gas-guzzling (or diesel-guzzling) SUVs and minivans. I guess people just adapt to rising fuel prices without altering their driving habits.

  • avatar

    The problem is people who can’t afford the gas prices got their shiney new suv 2 years ago and the prices on them dropped out.. they can’t afford to trade them in either and no dealership wants them. Either park em in the back yard and hope for a classic suv craze in 30 years or let the repo man come

  • avatar
    ttac2000

    $3+ is already killing them.

    The sales numbers are already reflecting this in a big way. It’ll take a few years for the replacement cycle to fully work its way through the marketplace, but might as well start an SUV death watch.

    Only people who need a big truck (or who truly have enough $$$ to ignore gas costs) will buy one.

    For people who don’t rack up the miles, an extra $/gallon doesn’t matter, but so many people in the US have long commutes or could only marginally afford an SUV to begin with.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    $6 is my guess. It’s sad but many people are willing to cut back on things like food quality or their kids’ education, but they refuse to change their driving habits.

  • avatar
    210delray

    I don’t think there will be much “giving up” because of what Frantz alluded to: people are in too deep and will just have to sit this out. They could drive less or use the “other” car (assuming it’s not a large SUV).

    However, sales of new SUVs are already tanking, so I think we’ve already passed the tipping point.

  • avatar

    It would be interesting to graph SUV sales by size class against gasoline price to see what’s already happened.

    Just the fear of prices rising further would keep me from buying an SUV at this point, or anything that might guzzle gas. I mean, maybe a lot of people would still buy SUVs at $3.50-$4, but if they worry, reasonably in my opnion, that prices may rise to $5, they’ll skip it.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    I’d put it somewhere between $4-5/gal fuel.

    Even after the tipping point when the median car buyer shuns the Urban Assault Vehicle there will still be those out there who want SUVs.

    Some many even use them for their intended purpose. Most of the posers who would have had their needs served with a station wagon or minivan will go back to crossovers or whatever marketing weasel word du jour they are being called.

    I’ll hang on to my 23-25mpg CRD KJ until Honda or Toyota offer something midsize with AWD that gets >30mpg.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    Here’s a novelty: SUVs and trucks can be RENTED.
    I just went on a desert adventure vacation using a rented 4Runner.
    It was a blast! Even better: I don’t need to own one myself. (Luckily the rental company wasn’t too finicky about the dents in the skid plates)

  • avatar
    mocktard

    2004, the United States consumed about 140 billion gallons of gasoline (energy.gov), with gasoline prices around $2.00 a gallon. Approximately 110 million households. That’s about 1272 gallons per family annually, or around $200 a month in gasoline.

    Obviously, heavy users could have easily burned $300 or $400 a month.

    With the average price of gasoline approaching $4.00 a gallon, that’s an extra $300 or $400 a month that full-size truck/SUV owners and heavy travelers are likely shelling out. While large vehicle sales are hurting, they’re still moving metal.

    I would think $5 or $6 a gallon would be sufficient. We’ll see sales drop to the point where the number of models will be hacked down to commercial-grade-only.

  • avatar
    Eggpainter

    I’ve seen it happen in my neighborhood (Edmonton, Canada – we refine the oil!) already: neighbors are trading in their big vans, 4Runners for Yaris’ and Civics.

    Of course, I still see lots of brand new Grand Cherokee SRT/8s, Commanders (!!), Hummers and Titans, so not sure if there’s a true reversal.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    We have already started to see a huge decline in sales but I think the real drop in sales off a cliff will happen when gas hits $5.50-6/gallon. Right about that time the dollar will be so low and the price of food so high(from the price of oil and ethanol production) that it will really hurt to fill your SUV up one a week $100+. There should be a lot of new alternatives for people to switch too in the next 2-3 years when it happens.
    It sucks because I need something will a little more room too it right when gas is going to sky rocket. Oh well I should be able to get myself a nice used truck cheap.

  • avatar

    In my case I was and maybe still considering a smaller SUV like the Toyota RAV4 for basic transportation for me and my animals to attend Dog Shows and also yearly visit to the Vets! I have to replace a older GMC Rally Van with a large V*8 that sucks Gasoline, but who would I sell it to? also have a older Camry Sedan, both are paid for and I dont need to go into debt to purchase a new Vehicle but living in a rural area I need a reliable vehicle and the Camry has been super, but I need more space!
    Gasoline here in Ontario is currently at Can.$1.20 per litre, more like $5.00 US a gallon. These are interesting times for all of us here in North America!

  • avatar
    kps

    George, it’s only $4.50 US. You’ve got to remember that the US have their own undersized version of gallons.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I think anyone you see buying a new full size SUV either definitely needs one (or a truck, but the result is the same)for towing or is just so wealthy it doesn’t matter to them. I see most of the people who bought a Tahoe or Expedition from 1999-2004 have moved to Muranos, Edges or Highlanders these days. Not many are going from a big SUV to a car, it’s too much of a jump.
    Renting a truck or SUV doesn’t always work. Typically the rental trucks are 1/2 tons and it may not be enough to tow your RV. Plus if you rent more than 6 times a year it ends up costing more than a new vehicle.

  • avatar

    Gas prices are going to knock the sales hard, because economics is finally forcing consumers to consider for even a moment how much gas they use in their ridiculously oversized bus-cars.

    Another thing that’s impacting sales of SUVs in my opinion is the declining home values and lack of easy credit. Much of the SUV craze was driven by me-too suburbanites battling for neighborhood superiority. I imagine the fact that we can no longer take out a HELOC to finance the purchase of some mega-man superHummer is also killing sales.

    Did I mention the economy is in decline and food prices are going up and people aren’t making as much money as they were 8 years ago? Yeah, all that, too.

  • avatar

    Asking what price gas will kill SUV sales is like asking what level of taxes will kill cigarette sales. The higher price may force some to wean themselves, but many will come up with the money no matter how how it goes.

  • avatar

    Americans will sell their kids to pay for gas, before letting the SUV go … :-)

    But for a thorough study on the topic, here’s a link to “Short-Run Gasoline Demand Elasticity, a study”:
    http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/knittel/papers/gas_demand_083006.pdf

    There’s evidence of a shift, compared to previous decades, in that people are modifying their driving behavior. BTW – very difficult to model, as people will rationalize their vehicle use as essential, when it’s non-essential to a deep level.

    Hummers, anyone?

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Current prices are already pushing people away from SUVs.

    My wife drives a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee. She only drives to work 2 days a week, so fuel costs aren’t a concern (yet).

    We drive my 2007 G35X for weekend trips, we only drive the Jeep if we are going off-road, or taking a ton of stuff for the kid (or if we plan to tow my Uncle’s jet skis).

    Current fuel costs are kiling SUVs now. At $4.00/gal SUVs are gone with commercial use being the exception. We aren’t even considering an SUV for the next car. We will probably keep the Jeep as it is paid off, but the next car for the wife will probably be a Mini or a Honda FIT.

    -ted

  • avatar
    scicarb

    If you figure that the average car owner in the US drives about 13,400 (2007 data from the Fed Hwy Admin) miles a year, every dollar that gas goes up for a 15mpg SUV is an additional $893 annually. Even at 18mpg your still looking at a $744 bump. That’s pretty significant. Right now the difference between a Ford F150 and a std 4dr Honda Civic (I know from first hand experience) is about $1020/year in fuel costs. That gap only gets bigger as fuel costs rise.

  • avatar

    Not owning an SUV I can’t honestly answer this, but personally my own threshold was $3 a gallon. When fuel hit that mark is when I went from just playing around with alternative fuels to getting serious about personal independence from petroleum. My target was to be able to run 100% on my own if needed by the time it hit $4 a gallon. I got there right on time. The odd bit is I’ve been driving a 50 MPG car since 2002, and many variations of that going back to 1982 (a rabbit diesel back then.) I’m just true to my Scot heritage and seriously frugal.

    My guess is that it has already happened, so the number is about $3-$4 a gallon. In 5 years SUVs will be back down to what they were in the 80 & early 90s… something only bought by people who NEED them.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    $2.25 should have killed it on merit. But, there is no gainsaying the stupidity of America’s Boomers.

  • avatar
    Antone

    As someone pointed out earlier, at the current rate of gas price increases, the rate of low mileage vehicles (i.e. SUV’s) will approach the same overall sales percentage of that of Europe. Even at $8 per gallon, they will not go away completely. People like being high-up and heavy. It’s a prenatal thing.

    I for one prefer low, light with a role-cage.

  • avatar
    jl1280

    Just back from a trip to Jacksonville Fl. Saw more Hummers in a week than I had seen in my previous life. So to kill a Hummer will take round about $50.00 /gal or triple and 20 years or so until they wear out and parts aren’t available. Natural or unnatural death of the lardass driver won’t do it since with our tax laws the kids will just get the cash to carry on and they will have been trained in wanting to drive it too. But your local middle class peasant driving a Subrban is dying now.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    I think there won’t be a ‘tipping point’ simply because as gas prices rise, the cost of everything else rises and therefore people get paid more. I think that the percentage of one’s income spent of fuel will stay fairly flat for the foreseeable future, as minimum wages have increased, and workers have consistently been getting paid more and more. So, people who can afford now to drive SUVs likely will still be able to afford those vehicles when gas continues to increase in costs. That said, there is the psychological point to be made that paying $150 to fill up the gas tank will be quite a hit emotionally, if not financially. Therefore, there will be an exodus from SUVs, but not because they cost too much to run, but because the owners think they cost to much to run. The only people that will get rid of their SUVs are ones that couldn’t really afford them in the first place.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The gas price won’t get SUVs off the road immediately but as people are ready to trade they will look for a more efficient vehicle. I’d say a long term price of $4 to $5 a gallon should make the SUV a niche vehicle and also get most urban cowboys out of their shiny black and chrome oversize trucks.

  • avatar

    Whatever, prices will drop for a brief period and people will buy them again and then whine when prices go up as they inevitably will. It is not like when we had 99 cent gas for that brief period that people didn’t know better, it is just that they don’t care.

    Frankly if you own anything over a gas sipping 4 cylinder, you are buying more than you need most likely, and why should anyone else care? I don’t make people subsidize my other hobbies, why should the government subsidize my love of fast cars?

  • avatar
    carguy

    Frank – I doubt SUV ownership is nearly as addictive as nicotine.

  • avatar
    lth

    …as to when the tipping point for the average Joe and Jane driver of America will be, causing them to say ENOUGH! and give up their [full size] SUV’s gas guzzlers to go buy something a little more sensible?

    Fixed that for you.

    Why the crossover/SUV hate? Yes, I agree a lot of people don’t need them, but some of the SUVs get better gas mileage than cars we are all lusting after (and not asking to kill off): M3, M5, RS4, any AMG. Add to the fact those cars all take premium where most SUVs take regular and I ask why aren’t we trying to kill off the high powered luxury sedans and sports cars since the people who drive those exhibit the same behavior (if not worse) as the people in SUVs?

  • avatar
    ash78

    With depreciation on new cars, and small used cars selling for a premium, I would hope the answer would be something like $7 or $8/gallon.

    Otherwise it’s hard to make a solid financial case for the total cost of ownership. From a pure cash flow POV, though, it has to hurt.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Where I am, the new Explorer/Expedition is dead, and people are even complaining about the mileage on the Edge and Escape. It’s becoming all about cars. Used SUVs are very cheap now, and people who need the space are buying newer, well depreciated ones instead of new.

    Too bad we can’t get any Escape Hybrids… and the 09’s won’t be in production until the Fall…and the Fiesta won’t be hear for another year…

  • avatar
    davey49

    jl1280- I think Jacksonville is exceptional for it’s Hummer popularity.
    lth- the people who lust after the hi-po German cars don’t buy thousands of them. They buy Civics, Minis, Miatas and Mazda 3s. People actually bought 100s of thousands of huge SUVs. It’s not so much a hate of SUVs as a hate of carmakers who have ignored the development of good small cars for so many years.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    It’s the old story of the frog in the pot of water. When you first put him in there, he’s happy. Warm it up a little and he’s still feeling pretty cozy. Warm it up some more and he’s getting a little hot, but it’ll be okay, right? Then it reaches a boil and he’s dead.

    But put a frog in boiling water and he’ll jump right out of there.

    It’s the same with gas prices. People can stand a lot of economic pain as long as it ramps up slowly. It will take a major shock – like an overnight jump of two or three dollars a gallon – to generate a mass exodus from the SUV. Otherwise SUV owners will just make futile gestures like buying CUVs that aren’t significantly easier on gas anyway. An Equinox is what, 2 mpg better than a Trailblazer? That isn’t going to get it done.

    George Labrador: if it’s just a couple of people and the dogs, buy a four-cylinder manual Ranger, put a cap on it, and haul the dogs back there.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    I was filling up yesterday and some guy with a shiny new Chevy Avalanche was braying to the attendant (safely ensconced behind Plexiglas) that he’d just had to pay $105 (!!!) to fill up his tank. He was seriously dumbstruck and complained to anyone at the station who would listen. From this anecdotal incident, I hypothesize that $100+ a tank may be the threshold at which a lot of SUV and large truck owners begin to seriously consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

  • avatar
    lth

    the people who lust after the hi-po German cars don’t buy thousands of them. They buy Civics, Minis, Miatas and Mazda 3s. People actually bought 100s of thousands of huge SUVs. It’s not so much a hate of SUVs as a hate of carmakers who have ignored the development of good small cars for so many years.

    I agree that people who lust after them don’t buy thousands and I wish the big 3 would have spent money improving their cars. But the generic anti-SUV behavior of people annoys me. They always argue that “SUVs are bad because they get bad gas mileage” or some variation thereof. This is not a good argument. Lots of cars get bad gas mileage and pollute the environment just as much – and people never complain about them.

    Cars are never a sensible decision – they are emotional and we impose (flawed) reasoning to rationalize our decision. If we made logical car decisions we’d all be driving the cheapest car with the best gas mileage and not care about anything that makes us love cars (handling, horsepower, nice interior, etc).

  • avatar
    Wolven

    At what price will we stop shipping food to stores? At what price will we stop flying aircraft? At what price will you quit driving to the store to buy that $20 loaf of bread? As sheep are led to the slaughter…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    BuckD, I hypothesize that “there’s no fixing stupid.” Gas prices have been hopping back and forth over $4/gallon off and on for a while now. If that guy bought the thing, anyway, and he’s surprised at the bill… Well, it’s a shame he’s allowed to vote and procreate.

  • avatar
    Engineer

    I think that the percentage of one’s income spent of fuel will stay fairly flat for the foreseeable future, as minimum wages have increased, and workers have consistently been getting paid more and more.
    Easy for you to say, living in China or India, as you must (or outer space, maybe?). Over here in the US of A, workers are certainly NOT getting paid more and more.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    SUVs have been around since the 1930s and have survived more drastic crises than the current one. For that matter there are many parts of the US where 4wd vehicles like SUVs are quite practical and where more fuel efficient vehicles just wouldn’t work for other reasons. So it may be just a tad early to start writing the SUV obituary.

    For that matter, as sales decline, expect dealers and manufacturers to offer more and more incentives, at some point, the incentives actually make the SUV a better bargain than the economy car. After all, if you can cut $200 off of your monthly car payment due to incentives, then paying an extra $180 a month on gas isn’t a sacrifice. The converse is also true: If cutting $200 from your monthly gas bill costs you $250 extra in payments, then you aren’t saving any money at all.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    people with money, ie: boomers who have their house paid off, have a nice amount in the IRA/401k/RRSP, etc… will continue to buy LARGE in-efficient vehicles…

    doesn’t matter if it’s a suburban, tahoe, explorer, hummer, excursion, f150, f250, sierra, silverado, tundra, armada, LX450, LS600, S600, S550, 7 series, 5 series, A8, A6, 335, G8, charger, mustang gt, AMG XXX, G-wagon, Cayan (sp), toureg, CX-9, CX-7, flex, pilot, or those awful quadruplets (cuv) from GM, etc…
    cross-over utility is no better than an suv.
    as others pointed out, from a practical standpoint, there’s no difference between an suv and a cuv…

    from a practical stand point, if you don’t carry more than 4 adult sized people regularly (or tow, etc…), there’s no need to have anything more than a 4-cylinder sedan (or ‘tall wagon’ like a CRV or rav-4 – for older folks who have trouble getting into a sedan)…

    so, if we’re giving SUV hate, as others pointed out, we can give out 335 hate too (impractical compared to the 328…)…

    the big, inefficient vehicle will continue…

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Over here in $8/gallon Germany, SUV sales are healthy. More to the point, resale values in the SUV class are sky-high.

    I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, if you are a businessman, you can offset your gas expenses against tax — so essentially, the government is subsidizing your use of the SUV. (I am working on an editorial titled “The Truth About How Germany Subsidizes Luxury Cars and SUVs”).

    Secondly, the boomer/yuppie philosophy of hedonism is alive and well. Along the lines of “If it feels good and I can do it, then I will”. It will take a few years of hardship before the Categorical Imperative has a chance with those folks.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Martin Schwoerer, What’s the average annual mileage driven for a private automobile in Europe? Significantly less than in the US?

  • avatar

    We are talking about arguably the most selfish generation of humans in history; a group that has already stolen $9 Trillion from their own grandchildren. At $8/gal I expect to see free gas vouchers sent out in the mail.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Kix, thanks for asking. I don’t know about the U.S., but the average for private autos in Germany is about 15k KMs. However, the privately-owned car is not ubiquitous in Europe as company cars and cars for the self-employed are much more common than in the U.S.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I see gas stations around here that charge > $4/gallon. I don’t see any shortage of SUV’s (evanston IL). But then again most of the houses in a bad market are barely falling under $1M.

  • avatar
    menno

    “kps :
    April 25th, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    George, it’s only $4.50 US. You’ve got to remember that the US have their own undersized version of gallons.”

    The highly ironic thing about the US Gallon is that it is actually the OLD British Gallon, which changed for the entire British Empire some time after 1776. I don’t know the actual date.

    But of course, even Canada and Britain now use metrics (except the UK still drives in MPH, but petrol and diesel are sold in litres!)

  • avatar
    casper00

    SUV’s are still going to be out there no matter how much the price is…..

  • avatar
    kjc117

    $10 a gallon but there will always be a market for SUV’s.
    At $10 a gallon only the wealthy would be able to maintain SUV’s. This, preventing “average income” customers from purchasing SUV’s. Morphing the SUV market into only luxury segment.
    Spur growth and innovation in the CUV market.

    Of course, this will kill the domestic profit margins.

  • avatar
    menno

    ith, I’m not “hating” on SUVs and trucks, it’s just that when you’ve been around the planet as long as I have (just over 1/2 century now), and you see the average 1974 car from driver’s ed (just after the first energy crisis) get 12 miles per gallon, and then watch you favorite industry gut itself in an effort to get 27.5 mpg, then sink right back into 12 mpg again by intentionally popularizing and marketing these dinosaurs, it’s kind of frustrating.

    Besides which, I live in the north, where people have this delusional behavior based on the totally erroneous belief that SUVs with all wheel drive will save their @sses in the snow. The truth is that – sometimes – they are more useful in crummy conditions, HOWEVER, I can’t count as high as how many SUVs I’ve seen @ss-over-teakettle in the ditch on their sides or roof, over the decades. You see, just because your all wheel drive can get you GOING, doesn’t improve your chances of stopping and the high center of gravity actually makes it more difficult to steer or make emergency maneuvers.

    Contrast that to Canadians, who used to pay about double for their fuel compared to Americans, and now “only” pay about 40% more (due to the US dollar plummeting – but that’s another subject). Canadians’ favorite car is the Honda Civic. Needless to say, most Canadian locations other than the pacific northwest have significantly worse winters than even northwestern Michigan, where I live.

    Therefore, I look at SUVs as wasteful, foolish, posiermobiles, mostly for men who apparently have to compensate for small apendages.

    Whereas high performance AUTOMOBILES can be made to have high performance by being light weight; it’s just that car manufacturers have gotten lazy and have let every line of vehicle grow and add mass, which makes high performance dull – so they add a bigger engine, necessitating more heavy duty components, which add mass, and so it goes.

    Wasn’t it Colin Chapman who said “add simplicity and lightness”.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I still own a a Grand Wagoneer, that sees less than 1k miles a yr. But it stopped being my daily driver when gas topped 1.25 a gallon.

  • avatar
    menno

    My beloved Mrs. disagrees with some of my above comments. I know, I know – shock – first time in the history of humanity that a husband and wife disgree, eh? ;o> Here are her comments in quotation marks. Consider me slapped…

    “As a female living in Northwestern Michigan, I disagree with my husbands stereotyping of SUV owners. I know as many women as men who drive SUVs and they do so because a big tall vehicle makes them feel safer that they will come out ahead in the event of a crash and they enjoy the extra room. They are not posers. My husband makes some good points about all wheel drive vehicles helping you go – not stop and also about the type of vehicles driven in Canada.

    The question should not be when will people stop driving ANY vehicle which uses an excessive amount of fuel but when will the vehicles catch up with progress made by technology made in the last 100 years? A Model T got 25 mpg, approx. and my Hyundai Sonata gets 25-30 mpg. This is peanuts compared to other inventions and progress – I do however admit that my car is safer, warmer and more comfortable than a Model T!!!

    We need to look forward and will never do that while we waste time and energy calling each other names. We know we have an energy problem. Let’s use our talents to move on.”

    BTW Praxis? Wow, did you ever hit the nail squarely on the head. Very well said.

    “We are talking about arguably the most selfish generation of humans in history; a group that has already stolen $9 Trillion from their own grandchildren. At $8/gal I expect to see free gas vouchers sent out in the mail.”

    $8 Trillion of that debt was added since 1980. Something like $5 trillion of that debt was added since 2000.

  • avatar
    rtz

    Personally, I don’t think $8/gal is going to have any impact or make any difference. People make enough disposable income to be able to afford to fuel whatever they want to drive.

    The $20/gal price point might be interesting…

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Once minimally functional people that should have no driver licenses to begin with get priced out of the market, then the SUV or 1 ton dually will not be that much of a safety requirement.

    Gas is still cheaper then a visit to the emergency room.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    lth said:
    I ask why aren’t we trying to kill off the high powered luxury sedans and sports cars since the people who drive those exhibit the same behavior (if not worse) as the people in SUVs?

    Where do I even begin? Oversized SUV’s are a pain for other drivers on the road to deal with, purely because of their bulk. Their size reduces visibility and their weight makes them a rolling hazard to people in more normal-sized cars. And this is even before you factor in the poor handling of the vehicle. And most SUV drivers drive as if they are driving a regular car, a delusion that makes their behavior more dangerous than that of your typical sports car driver.

    Besides, a sports car is generally at least something nice to look at – unlike the fat-ass rear-end or oversized, bling-infested snout of an SUV. Real sports cars (like real off-roaders) are engineered specifically for that purpose – not just slapped together by a bunch of assholes in marketing.

    And last but not the least, the number of real luxury and sports cars is far less than that of pretend-SUVs. There are about a dozen Ferraris in my neighborhood that I know of, and they are rarely driven. On the other hand, one in three houses has a Supersized Ugly Vehicle, and it gets driven every day.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, if you are a businessman, you can offset your gas expenses against tax — so essentially, the government is subsidizing your use of the SUV. (I am working on an editorial titled “The Truth About How Germany Subsidizes Luxury Cars and SUVs”).

    The US does the same and to a much larger extent. Vehicles over 6000# GWVR can be depreciated on a much faster schedule, most people write them off, legitimately or not.
    A huge % of the little strip mall stores that have no visible income are business fronts operated at a loss offset against other income by family members of high income people specifically for writeoff’s.

    If it were just the gas it would be nothing much.

  • avatar
    Toscha

    H2s have a 32 gallon tank, so my lackluster math skills tell me that, at $3.50 or so a gallon in my area, we’re looking at $122.50 per fill.

    I’d guess that when it cost $200 per fill ($6.25/gallon), they’ll die. And I complain about $60/fill…

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Gee thanks Mrs. menno . . . .

    ” I know as many women as men who drive SUVs and they do so because a big tall vehicle makes them feel safer that they will come out ahead in the event of a crash and they enjoy the extra room.” I sure am glad you & your female cohorts “feel safer”, but are you, in fact?. Statistics show a different, more nuanced story.
    But, we here in our “me first and fuck you” culture don’t do nuance. I’ll buy a tank so you die in a collision with me instead of me.
    “small cars are unsafe because they come out on the short end in a collision with a larger vehicle.” (?) Then let’s get the impractically huge overweight, (and crash incompatible, due to higher chassis height) vehicles off the road in order to make smaller cars safer..
    Gas should be $10/gal.
    Once again, asbestos suit and respirator on , ready for the flaming! :)

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    Probably the same price that kills muscle cars.

    I think families with kids will hopefully just switch to carpooling and keep their SUV’s. Maybe they can be smarter with their driving habits.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The great die off is already under way. I will repeat what I have said before. For over 50 years the full sized truck/suv/etc. was around 20-25% of the US market and was mostly sold to people who needed them. At the peak that number got to over 50%. As fuel prices continue to rise I expect it to get back on the low side of the long term historic averages.

    How many such monsters have you seen roaming the streets and highways of Europe? US fuel prices are now about where European prices were five years ago.

    “Personally, I don’t think $8/gal is going to have any impact or make any difference. People make enough disposable income to be able to afford to fuel whatever they want to drive”

    You must breath rarefied financial air. Have you talked with any normal working folks lately?

  • avatar
    lth

    menno – good to see your wife saved me some typing :)

    Thinx:
    Where do I even begin? Oversized SUV’s are a pain for other drivers on the road to deal with, purely because of their bulk. Their size reduces visibility and their weight makes them a rolling hazard to people in more normal-sized cars. And this is even before you factor in the poor handling of the vehicle. And most SUV drivers drive as if they are driving a regular car, a delusion that makes their behavior more dangerous than that of your typical sports car driver.

    Replace SUV with sedan and normal-sized car with sports car or motorcycle or bicyclist and it is the same argument. Just because they drive something bigger than you doesn’t mean it is any worse or better.

    Besides, a sports car is generally at least something nice to look at – unlike the fat-ass rear-end or oversized, bling-infested snout of an SUV. Real sports cars (like real off-roaders) are engineered specifically for that purpose – not just slapped together by a bunch of assholes in marketing.

    Personal preference. You generally enjoy looking at sports cars. Who are you to say what is nice to look at? Last I checked, people are allowed to have differing opinions on what is good looking. I will agree marketing is generally a bunch of morons.

    And last but not the least, the number of real luxury and sports cars is far less than that of pretend-SUVs. There are about a dozen Ferraris in my neighborhood that I know of, and they are rarely driven. On the other hand, one in three houses has a Supersized Ugly Vehicle, and it gets driven every day.

    So when there are less SUVs on the road you’ll just start disliking the next popular vehicle with perceived bad gas mileage?

    Now, having said all this. Don’t get the wrong idea. I think too many people own/lease/whatever SUVs that could probably be better suited owning/leasing/whatevering a wagon/hatchback/sedan. But, I think people should be allowed to drive whatever floats their boats regardless of my opinion as long as it is street legal. However, I also believe singling out SUVs as the only gas guzzling vehicle is a flawed idea.

  • avatar

    $5 a gallon will thin the herd but it won’t be till $10 that the last of the dinosaurs will be extinct.

  • avatar
    menno

    Hi ith and ttacgreg

    Glad my Mrs could save you some typing. My Mrs was not stating that SHE prefers Amercanus Giganticus Stupidutilivehiclus, but was giving the reasons that so many of her colleagues indicate for their “lifestyle vehicle choices”. In fact, she not only loathes huge vehicles, she mocks the drivers in the confines of our Prius when we carpool together. (“Big engine, little willy”) – I won’t do the irony thing about how she flamed me for saying (some) male SUV drivers are posers. But I’m not going to complain – I’ve got to sleep with her :o> and don’t want to sleep with the Newfoundland instead! (For one thing, she snores). Heh.

    You are absolutely entirely correct in your statements about how selfish it is to only think of oneself (since, lets be honest, most drivers go solo in their vehicles) and therefore buy the biggest honking monstrosity possible, and many – if not most – of us ‘car guys & gals’ (aka TTACers) already do know this and have commented on in over the months/years.

    Has anyone else noticed the greenhouses on cars are shrinking and the height of doors is going upwards? I don’t think it’s just “styling change” and an attempt at weight reduction (glass being heavier than steel). I think it’s to help the cars pass the side-crash standards better in order to increase side-collision safety.

    With the increasing number of stop-sign ignorers here in Michigan (I can’t speak for other places) that’s a good thing. Though my buddy (a body man) insists that 95% of collisions are from cars being @ss-packed into each other, often from tailgating. Another pandemic problem in Mich.

    Welcome to TTAC ttacgreg. It’s a great group.

  • avatar
    lth

    menno –

    I used to mock people and what they drove, then I sat back and realized all the reasons I mocked them could be applied directly to me and it wouldn’t change a thing.

    (1)Do I still think blinging out an SUV is stupid?
    Yes.
    (2)Do I think people should put $3k rims on a $500 car?
    No.
    (3)Do I find everyone buying SUVs because they are ‘safer’ a dumb reason to buy one?
    Yes.
    (4)Do I think some people buy Priuses only to show they are ‘Earth Friendly’ and would be better served helping save the environment some other way?
    Yes.
    (5)Do I think my owning of a high-performance German sedan is stupid choice?
    Yes, there are various other vehicles out there that fit my logical needs better. But, emotionally I love it and that is all the justification I need.

    In conclusion, as long as you are happy with your automobile I’m happy for you. I’m glad you like your Prius and enjoy driving it. I’m glad people enjoy driving their blinged out SUVs and riced out Civics and high performance sedans and sports cars. The world takes all types and without them on the road, going to and from work and school would become more of a bore than it already is.

  • avatar
    mimizhusband

    I think their may be a market for them at $8.00, but there is also a market for $90,000 (or whatever they go for now) Bentleys – Just not a very large one.

    Manufacturers will quietly whittle their offerings , and perhaps already are making plans to do so. That is the logical step to take, though my guess is that GM is planning to increase their SUV offerings.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    MENNO: You hit the nail right on the head!! I couldn’t have said it better. However, there will always be people who buy things simply because they want them. The majority of SUVs will never see dirt, tow a boat, or sadly, even see a snowstorm. But when purchased 3 years ago, gas was cheap and a lot of people fell for the image and the ride height. But the big guys won’t be going away soon. If you only drive a few thousand miles a year it makes more economic sense to keep the SUV for awhile. Considering the rapid depreciation of full size trucks and the cost of buying new, trading in just for mileage reasons does not make sense. When a big repair is required, then it might make sense to dump it. I suspect there will be a lot of 10 year old trucks junked that are in need of a few grand in repairs.

    ITH: Agreed with a lot of points; the world would be a remarkably boring place if we all felt the same way and liked the same stuff. I just wish that people would think more about the ramifications of their choices first…

  • avatar
    menno

    I found the book I was thinking of, which is about 1970’s cars, and in it there is a reprint of a 1974 Honda advertisement in which all of the 1974 US market automobiles are listed by MPG as tested by the EPA. M4 = manual four speed, A3 = automatic 3 speed.

    Top Five MPG:
    1: No surprise. Honda Civic M4, 29.1 mpg
    2: Surprise. VW 412 wagon M4, 27.9 mpg (possible reason: it was fuel injected!)
    3: Toyota Corolla 1200 M4, 27.1 mpg
    4: Lotus Europa Special M5, 25.2 mpg
    5: Datsun B210 M4, 24.9 mpg

    A few random cars from the middle of the list

    Ford Pinto wagon A3, 16.6 mpg
    AMC Gremlin M3, 15.6 mpg
    Ford Maverick A3, 15.6 mpg
    Chevrolet Vega Panel Express M4, 15.4 mpg
    BMW Bavaria M4, 13.8 mpg

    Some of the worst

    Ferrari 365GTB-4 M5, 6.5 mpg
    Oldsmobile Delta 88 wagon A3, 7.6 mpg
    Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna M4, 7.6 mpg
    Lincoln Continental A3, 7.9 mpg

    This car is a “COMPACT”
    Pontiac Ventura A3, 9.9 mpg

    OK now the “rest of the story”. The entire list is only the MOST EFFICIENT variants with any given transmission listed. There were larger, optional V8’s on most of these American vehicles which used even more fuel.

    Appalling, isn’t it? Especially when you recall that a 15.4 mpg Vega or 15.6 mpg Pinto, would each last about as long as a newspaper in the rain…

    So as I mentioned in other posts, it was more than appalling to see Detroit Inc go back to pushing monstrosities which are lucky to obtain 12 miles per gallon, like my buddy’s Chevrolet Tahoe with the smallest V8 available. Or a colleague who owned a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 which couldn’t get over 13 mpg.

  • avatar
    240d

    Will Joe and Jane actually say “Enough” and change their habits?

    Or will they call Washington and say “Enough! Fix this” (this being the price of gas), by messing with the market.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Hi Menno
    You reply is appreciated. I ws indulging in some hypebole. You have gained my respect.
    I have posted on this site a few times and really got beat up for arguing for smaller vehicles. The monster truck folks are lurking here for sure, although recently they have seemed to have quieted down.
    You say your dog snores? What a concept!

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    iprocter:

    If people get paid more, where does that money come from? Do you actually think that the owners of businesses are going to just gleefully pay employees more just because prices are skyrocketing on everything? THE RICH STAY RICH, NO MATTER WHAT THEY HAVE TO DO TO DO IT. Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, business owners are going to cover their own asses first? I work for one who DEFINITELY will. He owns five McDonald’s restaurants in NC, is already a multi-millionaire, and raises his prices at the drop of a hat (or a bun…tee hee). You would think he is almost broke, as it is with all business people. Pennies here, nickels there. Damn, you’d think these people are bankrupt already!! And with the minimum wage going up again, which I am in favor of even though I am salaried, the “bun” will definitely drop again. No free lunch, bubba. The cost of everything rises except the working peoples’ wages. And that’s the horrid truth. Only the ones with “golden parachutes” and the power to raise their OWN prices/salaries will come out of this, and the rest of us will be thrown to the wolves. Count on it.
    (By the way…the Owner here used to drive a Sequoia, but now he just writes a check for a Lexus LS whatever (currently 460, but not the stretch) every two years.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Rather than a certain price-point, I’d say the death-knell for SUVs will be defined by how long gas stays about a certain price.

    I put those two figures at
    – consistently above $4
    – for over a year.

    By that point, no more body-on-frame SUVs as passenger cars. (They have other, legitimate uses.)

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Being an old man I have seen many auto fads come and go and I am amazed that the SUV fad has lasted as long as it has. SUVs are silly. They aren’t as useful or convenient as a station wagon or minivan. The body on frame construction is good for pulling but rattles more.
    Perhaps the nightly news is responsible for the length of the SUV fad. Every night we are told of crimes committed all around us so people develope a barricade mentallity. The truth is that the crime rate has been decreasing most recent years but the sensationists type news shows we get scare us and some want a fort aound themselves.
    I don’t know if gas prices will end the SUV fad or just being laughed at for owning one.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    mikeolan:“Probably the same price that kills muscle cars.”I was thinking the same thing, except muscle cars were never truly ‘killed’. After the first gas crisis in 1973, then even after the previous, inflation-adjusted high price for gas in 1981, there were always low mpg V8 Mustang, Camaros, and Corvettes being produced. Coincidently, it wasn’t long after that gas-guzzling SUVs began their climb up the sales charts.

    The bottom line is that the excessive gas-guzzlers that Americans love, crave, and have been addicted to since the prosperity of the Eisenhower years, be they sixties’ musclecars or nineties’ full-size SUVs, will never really go away, at least not at any of the high fuel prices we’ve yet seen.

    Frankly, I suspect that the price of oil/fuel will have to be really high to ultimately kill off the big-engined American gas-guzzler. Even then, should the price of fuel fall back substantially, the gas-guzzler will come storming back with a vengance.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The marketplace shift is clearly well under way:

    “Demand for small cars, crossovers soar along with gas prices”:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080426/ap_on_bi_ge/autos_downsizing_3;_ylt=AjLUEZWJWzBtypefnmAvZ7cE1vAI

    One tidbit from that article:

    “Sales of large SUVs plummeted 28 percent in the first quarter this year, while subcompact sales rose 32 percent, according to Autodata Corp. Thriftier four-cylinder engines, once despised by Americans for their perceived lack of power, are selling in record numbers.”

    I can hear the customers asking: “Has that thing got a 4-banger?”

  • avatar
    Thinx

    lth said:
    I also believe singling out SUVs as the only gas guzzling vehicle is a flawed idea.

    I see you missed a subtle point here – I don’t think SUV’s are being singled out for gas-guzzling. The premise (which I agree with) is that a large number of SUV’s are just unnecessary for the _actual_ role they perform. Ergo, _anything_ that leads to a reduction in their number is a good thing – whether it is gas-prices, government CAFE regulation or a sudden epidemic of common-sense among the sheeple.

    At the moment, the most promising candidate that could bring about the consummation of this ideal is higher gas prices. Folks whose lifestyle can really justify a large SUV will continue to run them – and the hope is that the chavtastic poseurs who had no business driving a 2.5 tonne Excrelade on public roads will abandon them in droves.

    So, the problem is not that these rolling monuments to automotive bad-taste are gas-guzzlers. If anything, their need for cheap gas is the achilles heel, and this entire thread is based on the hope that $4-$8 gas is just the thing to finally cull their numbers.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    Thinx said:
    And most SUV drivers drive as if they are driving a regular car, a delusion that makes their behavior more dangerous than that of your typical sports car driver.

    lth said:
    Replace SUV with sedan and normal-sized car with sports car or motorcycle or bicyclist and it is the same argument. Just because they drive something bigger than you doesn’t mean it is any worse or better.

    That is not what I said. You seem to have missed the part about the SUV drivers’ delusion that they are driving a normal car.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    lth said:
    Personal preference. You generally enjoy looking at sports cars.

    I call bullshit on this. Unless you actually enjoy looking at the back-end of a Navigator, let’s stop pretending that _ALL_ design is purely subjective.

    In my opinion, most contemporary large SUV’s are excrescences on wheels and owe their existence more to the sphinkters in marketing than to automotive designers or engineers.

    The sooner they rollover and die, the better.
    (intentional spelling error to get around the filter)

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Thinx:“In my opinion, most contemporary large SUV’s are excrescences on wheels and owe their existence more to the sphinkters in marketing than to automotive designers or engineers.”A current sterling example being the Ford Excursion “Funkmaster Flex” edition, a $52k, red and black, gas-guzzling, rolling urban abomination, the use for which I have no idea other than to show how crass, indifferent, and tasteless one might be.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Luckily the Ford Excursion has already been axed. 2005 was it’s final model year. Who exactly wanted to drive a passenger vehicle with the ride and handling of a 2000 Ford F250 Super Duty anyway?

  • avatar
    lth

    Thinx: I see you missed a subtle point here – I don’t think SUV’s are being singled out for gas-guzzling. The premise (which I agree with) is that a large number of SUV’s are just unnecessary for the _actual_ role they perform. Ergo, _anything_ that leads to a reduction in their number is a good thing – whether it is gas-prices, government CAFE regulation or a sudden epidemic of common-sense among the sheeple.

    The wording is ‘give up their [full size] SUVs and buy something more sensible’ I don’t like the idea of singling out SUVs as not sensible when there are many other types of vehicles that aren’t sensible. Like I’ve said before, replace SUV with any other vehicle and the argument is the same for some subset of people in the world.

    That is not what I said. You seem to have missed the part about the SUV drivers’ delusion that they are driving a normal car.

    No, I read that. Someone driving a Camry thinking they are driving a sports car is same argument. There are bad drivers all over who think they are driving something more powerful/better handling/whatever than they really are. I see it everyday – you can’t single out bad drivers in SUVs.

    I call bullshit on this. Unless you actually enjoy looking at the back-end of a Navigator, let’s stop pretending that _ALL_ design is purely subjective.

    In my opinion, most contemporary large SUV’s are excrescences on wheels and owe their existence more to the sphinkters in marketing than to automotive designers or engineers.

    I don’t like the look of the Navigator (or the Excursion and its variant special editions or the Toyota SUV for that matter). I think the Expedition and Explorer look good. But, some people obviously like the look of the Navigator, Escalade, Hummer H2 / H3 (all ugly imo) because I sure see a lot of them. Design is subjective – how some one, or group, decides to accomplish a set of parameters is always subjective (Egg drop contest in school for example).

    Different strokes for different folks.

  • avatar
    Ryan Knuckles

    I think SUVs will always be around in some form. As the green “movement” (ie. Wal-mart and Target commercials, Oprah propaganda, liberal guilt through “news” reports) continues to grow, soccer moms will return to minivans and family sedans/wagons because SUVs will be considered out of fashion, which is what has really driven their sales in recent years. I think they will shift back to true utility or go max-luxury to be justified should the current trend continue.

  • avatar

    No, I read that. Someone driving a Camry thinking they are driving a sports car is same argument. There are bad drivers all over who think they are driving something more powerful/better handling/whatever than they really are. I see it everyday – you can’t single out bad drivers in SUVs.

    You’re missing part of the problem. SUVs don’t handle nearly as well as cars. They don’t stop nearly as quickly as cars. Yet, their drivers tend to feel invincible, high up, and surrounded by steel, so they drive even more irresponsibly than they otherwise would if they didn’t feel so safe.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    No, I read that. Someone driving a Camry thinking they are driving a sports car is same argument. There are bad drivers all over who think they are driving something more powerful/better handling/whatever than they really are. I see it everyday – you can’t single out bad drivers in SUVs.

    I don’t have the links but I remember seeing studies, which show that drivers of large vehicles tend to drive faster than those in cars (freight trucks excepted). This is due to the diminished sensation of speed in a large vehicle, something I experienced myself. It’s easy to feel confident until the time comes to hit the brakes, at which point the laws of physics are on the Camry driver’s side…

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “I don’t have the links but I remember seeing studies, which show that drivers of large vehicles tend to drive faster than those in cars (freight trucks excepted). This is due to the diminished sensation of speed in a large vehicle, something I experienced myself.”

    That fits my experience. People in monster trucks tearing out of the supermarket whilst jabbering on the cell phone are often a real menace. Often said people are also sipping a Starbucks while late for an important appointment at The Spa.

  • avatar
    lth

    You’re missing part of the problem. SUVs don’t handle nearly as well as cars. They don’t stop nearly as quickly as cars. Yet, their drivers tend to feel invincible, high up, and surrounded by steel, so they drive even more irresponsibly than they otherwise would if they didn’t feel so safe.

    SUVs don’t handle and brake near as well as cars, I agree. And Camrys don’t brake and handle near as well as a sports car. And both the drivers in their respective cars feel invincible while driving. I’ve nearly been run into by people driving SUVs, sedans, sports cars, compacts, hatchbacks, etc. I think safety equipment is to blame. If you had the chance of having the steering column impale you, you’d drive a heck of a lot safer.

    I don’t have the links but I remember seeing studies, which show that drivers of large vehicles tend to drive faster than those in cars (freight trucks excepted). This is due to the diminished sensation of speed in a large vehicle, something I experienced myself. It’s easy to feel confident until the time comes to hit the brakes, at which point the laws of physics are on the Camry driver’s side…

    I agree that when you are in a SUV the sense of speed is diminished. It has happened to me when I have had to drive them. The problem isn’t the car – it is the driver.

    Physics is never really on your side when you run into something, since most wrecks seem to be caused by people doing other things (eating breakfast, doing makeup, talking on the phone, etc.) besides driving.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    The biggest problem with any vehicle is the loose nut behind the wheel.

    Big SUV’s of today have mostly replaced oversized sedans of yesteryear which had worse handling and brakes to start with. Also, were less efficient even with the same number of passengers.

    If you were to decide to legislate against certain types of vehicles on the idea that some are less safe than others then it would be sports cars and motorcycles who get the axe first.

    If what you really want is for SUV’s to be outlawed then keep it up, but realize they will be gone long after the sports cars and bikes, so be careful what you ask for.

    PS After they come get my favorite toys, I may be disinclined to protect yours. Hope you commies all like boredom.

  • avatar
    threeer

    At $3.50/gallon, I’m at least reconsidering my next vehicle choice. I really wanted a Jeep Wrangler (1. I camp alot, 2. I live right along the east coast down south, so top-down driving is a near 365 thing), but looking at the overall mileage makes me pause. I already own a Liberty, which gets marginally better mileage than my old Dakota…so, for top down daily driving I’m considering a used Miata and will use the Jeep Liberty for the weekends that I need to camp. I just can’t leave all of my camp gear in the Libery, as my wife drives it every day, and since she has the shorter commute, she gets the Liberty!

    So, in my limited statistical sample of one household, the price being $3.50/gallon is already making an impact on purchasing decisions.

  • avatar

    The answer seems to be two parts”
    1. If you ask people, they will state that they will think of replacing their vehicle if prices get around 20% higher than current prices. It does not matter what the current prices are. This stated intention remains a fixed proportion of the current price until people actually cannot afford to make ends meet (see #2).
    2. If people actually cannot afford it then they will likely just drive less. How can they at this point afford a few vehicle?

    That is my take on it after having seen this sort of question asked by many researchers in many ways.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The folks comparing the relative driving dynamics of SUVs vs. midsize sedans proclaiming that physics favors the latter display ignorance of physics.

    Maybe I was too search-lazy but lacking SUV-sedan data I found another pair with similar weight delta: fortwo vs. Astra. Road&Track tested the fortwo at a few happy meals short of 2000 lbs and the Astra similarly short of 50% greater mass. The fortwo stopped 60-0 in a reported 130 ft which I contend is passable but wholly unremarkable. With all the extra heft of the Astra it took….120 ft. The 80-0 stopping distance was more exaggerated (yes, the fortwo got past 80mph) at 230 for the smart and 213 for the Astra. You could almost fit a Tahoe in that difference in stopping distance.

    For every additional pound of increased vehicle mass there is an equal amount of additional available tractive effort. Vehicle design, chassis construction, tire selection, and suspension tuning dictate how effectively the available tractive effort is utilized for whatever purpose.

    While I dislike the H2/H3/Navigator/Escalade frenzy as much as any sane individual I find equally distasteful the proliferation of 30+ year old vehicles with 30″ wheels and 2 ft of ground clearance. It is equally stupid and non-functional but I would defend the right of another to own such an abomination so that I can do whatever it is they think is horrendous.

    Personally I drive a full-size pickup V8, 5spd, 4×2 and average 18,000 miles per year at around 18 mpg (actual average, 90% highway). The truck is paid for and I would have to see sustained gas prices above $9/gal to make me go out and purchase a 35mpg vehicle (assuming $400/mo payment) so that I can park my truck. Since I don’t anticipate $9/gal gas anytime soon, I can’t financially justify buying a car solely to save on gas. I will, however, be factoring fuel efficiency into future purchase decisions when it is time to buy, much as I did when purchasing my truck since I went with the small V8/5spd and 4×2 instead of the profligate big V8/auto/4x4s on every truck lot.

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