Monster Truck Madness

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New at Reason: Keith Bradsher says SUV drivers have reptilian mentalities. In Reason's August issue, Sam Kazman counts the scales.

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  1. I’ve only read reviews, but I think Bradsher is saying that that’s how industry market research classify SUV owners.

  2. As a SUV owner, I do believe the market will cause most of us to not repeat buy. The cost of keeping mine full of gas is really rediculous, and I doubt I’d buy another one. I just love the space for my dogs, bikes, etc., it really does come in handy. I’m actually getting a motorcycle as my daily commuter b/c the idea of 50 mpg sounds so much better than 15 (plus a lot more fun).

  3. “Bradsher … cites auto market research that supposedly finds SUV owners have “reptilian” mentalities, focused on “survival and reproduction,” overly fearful of crime, and “self-oriented” in lifestyle. (Minivan owners, in contrast, “embrace the family image” of their vehicles and “tend to be extremely nice people.”) ”

    It almost sounds like Bradsher supplies the link to “reptilian” mentalities, given the industry list of attributes.

    In any case, isn’t embracing the family image a focus on reproduction? And, isn’t a focus on survival also part of a family image, or do minivan owners not really care if their family survives? What’s a self-oriented lifestyle?

  4. Brady,

    Perhaps commuting is better done on a motorcycle (if you are willing to accept the additional risk, etc.), but you probably will still want a SUV for situations where you want to carry lots of stuff.

    My mid-size SUV (an ’88 Jeep Cherokee with 300k miles) has been excellent offroad (lots of gold prospecting trips with my father down in Baja, camping trips in Baja & the US SouthWest with my wife, and shooting trips in the local desert with my brother-in-law), but with two kids in car seats, a wife and a mother-in-law in tow, it is a bit cramped.

  5. I don’t disagree with Bradsher’s assessment of SUV’s, but I don’t agree with his notion that government regulations are the great magical solution that will save us from ourselves. If people want to spend their own money on overpriced station wagons that get poor gas mileage, more power to them. They’re just subsidizing car ownership for me, since several auto manufacturers have publicly said that while they make a profit every time they sell an SUV, they lose money every time they sell a car.

  6. Brad S.,

    That’s American car manufacturers who say that. Besides, in ten years the last redoubt of the US auto-makers will be toast (SUVs and trucks), and they’ll actually have to start earning a living.

  7. I think Bradsher’s characterization of SUV owners is absolutely correct. I’d also like to point out that SUV owners consume oxygen, robbing the earth of a precious resource, stealing it from the mouths of children and minorities. They then discharge carbon dioxide- a greenhouse gas! Can we have Huffington classified as a gross polluter?

  8. Maybe we could use these reptilians to bring the vermin infestatations of our cities under control. You know, send a couple of divisions of SUVs into a city like, say, Washington DC & just let them feast at will on all the rats running around there.

    “Besides, in ten years the last redoubt of the US auto-makers will be toast (SUVs and trucks), and they’ll actually have to start earning a living.”

    Cool, you can see the future. I hope you’ll keep us all informed on what stocks we should be buying so we can all retire filthy rich in a few years.

  9. Focusing on survival and reproduction is reptilian? Uhh…man, someone gives those responsible for such a comment a Biology book, stat! I’d kind of like to know what actually existing animal anyone can locate that does not have survival and reproduction permanently very high on their list of “Things To Do”.

    I can’t figure out how focusing on the family image isn’t focusing on survival and reproduction, either; perhaps someone with more advanced cognitive capacities than us reptilian curs can figure out how to square these properly.

    Ooog need go get weapon and protect cave; find woman; fuck till children appear. Ooog!

  10. Don,

    You tow your mother-in-law? I tried that once, but couldn’t find a hitch big enough for her mouth.

  11. i think the suv thing may very well be more of a question whether SUV drivers more likely to be fucktards who pick SUVs because of their fucktardedness or whether one is more likely to notice an SUV being driven by a fucktard because of their size. in the same way people remember encounters with 18 wheelers on highways so vividly.

    actually, better question: since when did SUV owners become a protected species? because they’re on the liberal shit list?

  12. Plutarck – to Liberals, “focusing on the family” is bad, because what is good for “the family” may not be good for “the commune” (i.e. government). Also, to Liberals, “survival and reproduction” are bad things – at least, human survival and reproduction, because humans rob the earth of so many precious natural resources.

  13. More blog on my favorite issue… SUV bashing. Don, glad to hear you’ve gotten so many miles on your Jeep – I’ve got one that I need to last as long. It’s only got 62K at the moment. It is a bit cramped – the design itself is about 25 years old. It really is a tall station wagon but it works really well for hauling stuff and it sticks to the road pretty well with 4WD. Anyone who hasn’t figured out that they’re more likely to tip is an idiot anyway who deserves to flip and die.

    One thing I’ve heard in the past, that makes perfect sense but has been ignored by both supporters and critics alike, is that fatality differences could have a lot to do with vehicle buying demographics. If you looked at sports cars and you looked at minivans, you’d expect to see a different occupant fatality rate just based on the fact that safety conscious people with kids tend to buy minivans while younger people inclined to drive fast would prefer sports cars. Same goes with SUVs (which tend to be popular with both groups so it’s hard to tell what to make of the numbers). Assuming they kind of cancel each other out, they still compare favorably with cars for safety.

    I also caught the irony about the ‘survival and reproduction’ values vs. ‘family oriented’ – just another example of someone trying to set the stage for the debate by redefining the terms. I’d also like to know what ‘auto industry’ research he got that from. As an employee of the auto industry, it’s rare they get their target customer right anyway so that’s hardly definitive. Probably one memo or marketing study, so of course it represents all the evil car companies and all their idiot customers.

  14. “I’ve got one (jeep cherokee) that I need to last as long. It’s only got 62K at the moment.”

    The inline six is a great engine, and it should last a long time. Mine has the 6, but it also has the crappy Frog (Peugeot) transmission, so it must be blessed to make it that far. Most newer Jeeps have very good Japanese transmissions.

    “. . . is that fatality differences could have a lot to do with vehicle buying demographics. ”

    I know that rollover fatalities tend to occur in country driving. Also, alcohol is likely to be involved. I think you are on to something.

  15. Similar to that Brad, I’ve yet to get the whole “self-centered” thing, as with acting according to your own interests is “selfish” – which would require that you not care about anyone else, and thus not have or care about friends, family, lovers, spouses, children, coworkers, employees, employers, business associates, principles, or apparently anything like that.

    The stunning failure to understand what “self-interest” actually means is so utterly stunning and staggering in common culture, that it still kind of sneaks up on me on occassion. Further, how all too often people seem to not notice that the people who demand you think about _other people_ mean THEM – you should think about THEM, as they are (or can be) included in “other people”, but seem to think they are not so included if someone thinks about themselves. Sort of like “spread the wealth” never seems to mean THEIR wealth – just yours. Funny how that works.

    In short:

    selfish, adj.
    Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.

    http://www.alcyone.com/max/lit/devils/

  16. Jim’s “self-selection of SUV’s by risk-takers” theory jibes with that of the late Aaron Wildavsky. If you’ve never read the (probably) out-of-print “Searching For Safety” or articles based on it, give it a try. It’s instructive.

    Kevin

  17. Sorry, but you need a hell of a lot of mud or snow before you need any more traction than that provided by my front-wheel drive minivan. People by SUV’s because their egos are bigger than their units.

  18. by = buy. Sorry.

  19. Easily the worst argued, most illogical thing that’s appeared on Reason. Let’s go.

    “He wants legal changes: revisions in the tax code to bring SUV business write-offs down to the level for cars, tougher air emission standards (some of which are already slated to take effect soon), and new state insurance regulations to mandate more precise model-based ratings.” Horrors! Actual equal treatment before the law, instead of a position of privilege distorting the market in SUV’s favor? How un-libertarian.

    “He even wants higher penalties for reckless SUV driving, arguing that juries should deal more harshly with an SUV driver whose automotive needs could have been served by a car.” Wouldn’t want people to be held responsible for the consequences of their decisions.

    “Most important, he wants an overhaul of the federal fuel economy standards, popularly known as CAFE (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) — a program that fueled SUV popularity in the first place by downsizing passenger cars while treating SUVs and other light trucks more leniently.” The criticism here is, what? That he wants to correct a loophole that gives on product an advantage over its competition? Does the author realize that he’s arguing in favor of retaining the status quo?

    “Bradsher?s disdain for consumer behavior makes sense, because he doesn?t think much of SUV fans as people. He cites auto market research that supposedly finds SUV owners have “reptilian” mentalities, focused on “survival and reproduction,” overly fearful of crime, and “self-oriented” in lifestyle. (Minivan owners, in contrast, “embrace the family image” of their vehicles and “tend to be extremely nice people.”)”

    As opposed to the PROFESSIONAL AUTO INDUSTRY DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS who produced these conclusions. Why would a libertarian dispute the ability of a corporation to draw accurate conclusions about its target market, espcially one that has been so successful in selling to them? Mr. Kazman’s refusal to admit the accuracy of this customer profile (dismissed with the rhetorical term “stereotype”) seems to be based on nothing more than his wish that is wasn’t true. I’ll trust the professionals on this one, rather than the ideologue, thank you.

    “If it has, then the number of car drivers killed in two-vehicle crashes, as a fraction of all car drivers killed, should have risen dramatically as SUV sales soared. But this simply hasn?t happened, according to Dr. Leonard Evans, an internationally recognized traffic safety researcher: “If SUVs were substantially increasing risks to car occupants, then it must necessarily follow that this ratio would increase with increasing numbers of SUVs on the road. But in fact the data from 1994 forward show no hint of any such increase.” Deaths per mile had been declining for decades. Then, in the mid 90s, the rate of decline decreased. Then, it levelled of. Then, last year, it actually increased slightly. Ignoring treands, a basic strategy in “How to Lie with Statistics.” Can anyone out there identify a major change in the automobile market that started in the early 1990s? Anyone? Nice job cherry picking 1994 as a starting year, by the way.

    “The 2001 National Academy of Sciences CAFE study estimated CAFE?s lethal impact at between 1,300 and 2,600 lives per year.”k Uh huh. When the number of deaths that “should” have been avoided during a period of overall decline can be used to support his purposes, the author is all over it. When it does not, he ignores it.

    ” He misses entirely the fact that the Ford-Firestone tire fiasco was due in part to Ford?s quest for higher fuel economy.” In part, eh? Was it “in part” due to anything else? Not anything worth mentioning, I guess.

    Absolutely the most intellectually dishonst column I’ve ever read here. Does not stand, even on its own terms.

  20. Easily the worst argued, most illogical thing that’s appeared on Reason. Let’s go.

    “He wants legal changes: revisions in the tax code to bring SUV business write-offs down to the level for cars, tougher air emission standards (some of which are already slated to take effect soon), and new state insurance regulations to mandate more precise model-based ratings.” Horrors! Actual equal treatment before the law, instead of a position of privilege distorting the market in SUV’s favor? How un-libertarian.

    “He even wants higher penalties for reckless SUV driving, arguing that juries should deal more harshly with an SUV driver whose automotive needs could have been served by a car.” Wouldn’t want people to be held responsible for the consequences of their decisions.

    “Most important, he wants an overhaul of the federal fuel economy standards, popularly known as CAFE (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) — a program that fueled SUV popularity in the first place by downsizing passenger cars while treating SUVs and other light trucks more leniently.” The criticism here is, what? That he wants to correct a loophole that gives on product an advantage over its competition? Does the author realize that he’s arguing in favor of retaining the status quo?

    “Bradsher?s disdain for consumer behavior makes sense, because he doesn?t think much of SUV fans as people. He cites auto market research that supposedly finds SUV owners have “reptilian” mentalities, focused on “survival and reproduction,” overly fearful of crime, and “self-oriented” in lifestyle. (Minivan owners, in contrast, “embrace the family image” of their vehicles and “tend to be extremely nice people.”)”

    As opposed to the PROFESSIONAL AUTO INDUSTRY DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS who produced these conclusions. Why would a libertarian dispute the ability of a corporation to draw accurate conclusions about its target market, espcially one that has been so successful in selling to them? Mr. Kazman’s refusal to admit the accuracy of this customer profile (dismissed with the rhetorical term “stereotype”) seems to be based on nothing more than his wish that is wasn’t true. I’ll trust the professionals on this one, rather than the ideologue, thank you.

    “If it has, then the number of car drivers killed in two-vehicle crashes, as a fraction of all car drivers killed, should have risen dramatically as SUV sales soared. But this simply hasn?t happened, according to Dr. Leonard Evans, an internationally recognized traffic safety researcher: “If SUVs were substantially increasing risks to car occupants, then it must necessarily follow that this ratio would increase with increasing numbers of SUVs on the road. But in fact the data from 1994 forward show no hint of any such increase.” Deaths per mile had been declining for decades. Then, in the mid 90s, the rate of decline decreased. Then, it levelled of. Then, last year, it actually increased slightly. Ignoring treands, a basic strategy in “How to Lie with Statistics.” Can anyone out there identify a major change in the automobile market that started in the early 1990s? Anyone? Nice job cherry picking 1994 as a starting year, by the way.

    “The 2001 National Academy of Sciences CAFE study estimated CAFE?s lethal impact at between 1,300 and 2,600 lives per year.”k Uh huh. When the number of deaths that “should” have been avoided during a period of overall decline can be used to support his purposes, the author is all over it. When it does not, he ignores it.

    ” He misses entirely the fact that the Ford-Firestone tire fiasco was due in part to Ford?s quest for higher fuel economy.” In part, eh? Was it “in part” due to anything else? Not anything worth mentioning, I guess.

    Absolutely the most intellectually dishonst column I’ve ever read here. Does not stand, even on its own terms. Weak, dude.

  21. Sorry ’bout the double post.

  22. Oh, I see: he’s AEI. I should have guessed (well, I should have read.) That explains it: you libertarians are wrong about a lot of things, but you are also honest and intellectually rigorous. This guy is neither.

    Allowing crap like this to pollute your site makes it easier to dismiss your reason- and principle-based arguments as corporate shilling.

  23. on july 23, 1994 my organ donor was disconnected from life support. she was 24 y/o. lived and died in texas. I think she was a hit and run victim. does anyone know what her name was. or how i can thank her family.

    respectfully julia

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