Opinion by Ben Hope
SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, a car similar to a minivan or a station wagon, but with a much tougher look and a design suited for off-road driving. But many – too many – are not being used off -road and it’s a bad trend, environmentally speaking.
In it’s May 29, 2021, the “New Zealand Listener” ran an editorial which began, “The world is in the grip of an outlandish and planet damaging addiction with New Zealand no exception. It’s the growing habit of using the equivalent of a two-tonne truck merely to do the shopping or ferry children around.”
The SUV was originally conceived as an off-road vehicle, ideal for the fishing or hunting person. But that’s gone by the board due to fragile human vanity. But vanity is to the fore.
Over the past decade all except two of the country’s 10 top selling vehicles have been SUV or utes.
“Demonstrably most are merely tootling about the suburbs – while sitting an average 20% more carbon per kilometre than a medium sized car.,” said the “NZ Listener”.
The editorial dished up some statistics such as:-
- In 2010 there were 50 million SUVs on the world’s roads; now there are 250 million
- Emissions from the world’s car fleet fell by 350 megatonnes in the last decade, but SUV emissions rose by 500 megatonnes.
- SUV sales in New Zealand internationally hit new records.
For too many, owning a UV is a status symbol hence the nickname “Remuera Tractor”. The “NZ Listener” described SUVs as “an elite status symbol.”
The plethora of SUVs born of self-centred human ego, is under attack. Three years ago the “Tractors” of upmarket Auckland suburb Remuera were banned from a local car park. The point is to go shopping or to drop the kids off to school doesn’t require a SUV.
And to a casual observer of kids being dropped off and collected at school, the obesity of the parent is a strong indicator that the ownership of the SUV has nothing to do with outdoor recreation.
But if you’re a keen outdoor recreation participant, a SUV is almost indispensable in today’s world.
The danger is that restrictions on SUVs because of fickle human behaviour could adversely impact on the outdoor recreational Kiwis who do have an off-road vehicle. A genuine 4 WD enthusiast, angler or hunter has a genuine reason for owning a UV and is understandably proud and caring of his or her SUV.
On the there hand the urban dweller driving suburban streets is primarily motivated by the image projected.
Jane Austen put it succinctly in Pride and Prejudice, when she wrote “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
The “New Zealand Listener” concluded “Most household can live without them, Indeed given SUV’s emissions, it is time to reframe them as a new form of smoking, one that unnecessarily pollutes the planet’s lungs.”
Oh, so very true. I see over-weight, obviously inactive parents, dropping kids off at a nearby school. They don’t need a SUV but I guess they think it’s a cool look. Selfish vanity.
As one of those who absolutely needs a 4WD, it is truly amazing how many buy these things for any of (a) status, (b) safety, or (c) sitting higher than anyone else.
There may be something to be said for having better visibility, but status is just that and as for safety – well most SUV’s are actually far from it.
With a higher centre of gravity, the SUV is far more likely to roll in a collision, If the SUV employs the older chassis and body as separate entities design, then whilst anyone you hit may come off second best, hit a tree and the sudden stop can easily maim or kill.
I live adjacent to the coast, and see many very competent, very responsible SUV users enjoying their sports along the shoreline. I also see the idiots driving recklessly or getting hopelessly bogged by venturing way beyond the capabilities of either vehicle or driver – but it’s a nice money-maker for a few of us!!!
Personally, I chose to drive a diesel vehicle for its economy and reliability – the petrol versions are just so hungry for fuel as to be beyond the reach of many.
Jane Austen was correct. So was John Ruskin who said “The common practice of keeping up appearances with society is a mere selfish struggle of the vain with the vain.”
SUVs are status symbols for too many.
FREEDOM of choice , thats what this country was fought and won for >