A puritan, observed H. L. Mencken, is someone who suffers from "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Pilgrims and platitudes notwithstanding, there are — indeed, probably always have been — small-p puritans who had nothing to do with Plymouth Rock. One of the more egregious subsets of this group rails endlessly, not so much about Plymouth, but about Dodge, about Chevy, about Ford, about any carmaker who has the audacity to make cars, and most especially non-cars, that people might actually want to buy.

The best-selling vehicle in the USA — has been for some time — is the Ford F-series pickup truck. The blue-oval guys move over 800,000 of these things a year, about as many units as the two best-selling cars combined (Toyota's Camry and Honda's Accord). Over at GM and DaimlerChrysler, the best-sellers, sure enough, are Chevy and Dodge trucks. Perhaps needless to say, all these trucks are not being used merely as humble hauling devices, and this gets some people's personal EGR valves clogged. How dare these people park a $30,000 pickup truck in front of their $20,000 mobile homes? But stereotypes notwithstanding, darn few of us have any legitimate reason to complain about someone else's mode of transport; most of the time, we're busy trying to keep our own machinery running.

If trucks are mocked, though, then sport-utility vehicles are reviled. Not so great a hauler as a simple truck, nowhere nearly as capable on the road as an average car, the SUV is the object of all manner of scorn these days. And while there are legitimate reasons to disdain the SUV, there's still the question of "Who gets to pick my next motor vehicle?" There is no shortage of ostensibly green-minded advocacy groups to volunteer to assume this awesome responsibility, though damned few of them seem concerned about how those of us who don't live on the bus line get to work, let alone whether we want to spend any leisure time in our personal conveyances. Not even small Pacific-rim imports are immune to criticism these days. The late Rick Nelson said it best: "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." Then again, he'd rather drive a truck.

The Vent

#196
8 May 2000

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