Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gas Guzzlers And Geos

I drive a mid-size vehicle and gas prices are killing me, having hit an average an average of $3.78 for regular this week here in Houston. That's up .11 from last week. But lately I've been trying not to think about myself so much. Instead, my empathy goes out to the legions of SUV and huge pickup truck drivers here in Houston and the state of Texas. Have you watched the pain on their drivers faces as they fill up lately? It's a terrible thing.

As bad as it has to be paying so much for gas itself, the fact that it's now easier to sell Florida swamp land than to get rid of their gas guzzlers, has to make the mental torture even worse. And it's not just drivers, dealerships are having an equally hard time getting rid of them.

The really large ones with V-8 engines that can get as little as 12 miles per gallon in the city -- like the Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition and Chevy Suburban -- are dropping in value by the thousands.

The No. 1 reason for the sales slump is soaring gas prices, says Peter Brown, the executive director of Automotive News, the trade newspaper for the North American car industry.

For the first four months of this year, truck and SUV sales are down a collective 24.8 percent. SUV sales plummeted 32.8 percent while pickups dipped 19.9 percent, he says.

Man, that has to hurt. The article goes on to say that the major auto manufacturers are retooling their production lines away from trucks and SUV's towards smaller cars. To add further insult to injury, a lot of the old cars many of these people got rid of to buy their now unwanted gas guzzlers, have seen their resale values go through the roof. This is due in part to that fact that many of those old vehicles get mileage close to or better than that of newer hybrid vehicles.

Americans seem to absolutely refuse to learn from history. Fuel shortages precipitated by the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 led to the purchase of a lot of fuel efficient vehicles from foreign automakers who were already producing them, and an emphasis on their production by automakers here. However as soon as prices stabilized, American auto production moved right back into oversized vehicles. This lack of foresight on the part of the industry and consumers now has us at a competitive disadvantage, again, to foreign automakers who've never stopped producing smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Not to mention our continued reliance on imported oil and it's wildly rising, 'market-driven' prices.

So what are we going to learn from this crisis? The technology has been in place for decades to produce ultra fuel efficient or alternative fueled vehicles, but between the automobile and oil industries, and the politicians dependent on both no real effort has been made to reduce our dependence on oil as a fuel. I'm hopeful this latest round of super high oil and gas will spur some real movement on that front.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting. Anybody trying to sell their used 1993 Geo? Let me know.


Big Tex said...

I miss the Geo, I wish they still made it. But I hear they have a car coming out in the near future that gets 100 miles per gallon and tops out at 100 mph. Of course, calling it a "car" is probably generous - it has three wheels and is basically a souped-up motorcycle. But hey, it sounds great to me.

DP said...

I'd probably drive a motorized skateboard right about now if the mileage is right. Bring it on!

I think we're going to see some pretty radical changes in our driving habits and what we consider appropriate vehicles coming in the near future.

Texas Liberal said...

I did not drive until I was 23. I walked everyehere or took the bus.

As you can imagine, I did not live in Houston at the time.

DP said...

Texas Liberal, - Talk about a city built for the car. Walking everywhere in Houston would have you in pretty good shape, if you can manage to not get run over by a car first because half the streets are missing sidewalks.