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The End of the SUV Era

A closer look at the rise and fall of the SUV.

Takeaways


How did the SUV craze begin?
“The 1975 CAFE bill, passed by the U.S. Congress, is credited with causing the decline of the station wagon. Because station wagons were classified as a passenger car, they were subject to more stringent fuel economy standards. As a result, minivans and SUVs — classified as light trucks and therefore subject to fewer controls — skyrocketed in popularity.”

(Wall Street Journal, May 2007)

How were SUVs cast as a symbol of freedom?
“SUVs trigger the emancipation of the masses from dependence on government-run public transportation.”

(George F. Will, columnist for the Washington Post, November 2002)

Who else benefited from the SUV?
“Politicians like driving SUVs because it’s not usually a good idea for a politician to be driving a Mercedes or a Volvo.”

(Keith Bradsher, author of “High and Mighty: SUVs — the World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way,” October 2002)

Will SUVs spell doom for the U.S. automotive industry?
“The future of GM, Ford and Chrysler now depends on SUVs and pickups.”

(Danny Hakim, Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times, March 2003)

In hindsight, why were SUV sales so problematic?
“Detroit in the 1990s grew lazy on fat profits generated by pick-ups and sport utility vehicles — while Japanese rivals stole market share in lower-margin cars.”

(Jeremy Grant and James MacKintosh, Financial Times columnists, December 2002)

Ten years ago, did anyone foresee the eventual downfall of the SUV?
“If fuel were $3 a gallon, I think you’d see a very different distribution in the size of vehicles — car and truck.”

(Alex Trotman, former chairman and CEO of Ford, November 1997)

Did the American public show any environmental concerns?
“The American idea of an energy debate is to preach conservation, while driving to the mall in an SUV.”

(Bob Samuelson, Newsweek columnist, May 2001)

What else?
“SUVs are rolling symbols of federal energy policy gone awry.”

(Warren Brown, Washington Post columnist, December 2001)

How did U.S. car companies defend themselves?
“Businesses needn’t apologize for making products that other Americans want to buy. Their first obligation is to their shareholders and employees — and that means above all making an honest profit.”

(Editorial in the Wall Street Journal, August 2002)

What happened to SUV sales after fuel prices neared $4 in 2008?
“The traditional truck-based sport utility vehicle — the behemoth of American roads that helped fuel profits of automotive companies — is dying quickly.”

(Terry Kosdrosky, Crain Communications senior reporter, May 2008)

And finally, will the SUV market recover?
“The SUV craze was a bubble — and now it is bursting. It’s an irrational vehicle. It’ll never come back.”

(George Hoffer, economics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, May 2008)

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