Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wouldn't Want to be a Hummer Salesman

As I walked from my car yesterday morning I passed a very new Hummer parked by the side of the road near my office. The owner was walking out to get in. I felt like going up to him and asking him whether he was mad. (Scroll down through the evaluation of the bank ads to the Chevy Anti Ads). I wonder if that would have been justified moral kerb rage?

Hummers are more visible in Adelaide in the last six months, having hardly seen any in my first six years here. What a time to introduce the brand here in Australia. They are visible as limousines and Hummer sponsor the professional basketball league. Your reward for being professional basketball player of the year is a free Hummer. Probably good for leg room, but I wonder if they throw in a years free petrol, which would probably be worth more than the car? The model you see here is the Hummer Lite whatever it is called, but the limousines are pretty large.

All this as the American love affair with the SUV collapses.

When I was living in America I had a Ford Explorer for about a year when we lived in California. It seemed alright at that time, with petrol at about $1.50 a gallon. I mean it was my right and it seemed vaguely sensible at the time. It was fun and it took me to some fun places. What it also did, was to empty its tank very quickly. It didn't seem so large when I lived there. Everything is large in America? Actually when I was buying it, the other part of the car yard sold Hummers. I sat in one and I think the very slick sales person told me that they got around 5 miles to the gallon.

I also toyed with the idea of an F150, until recently Americas top selling vehicle, overtaken by those bastion of tough guy transportation the Civic and the Camry, ten years earlier when my trusty Saab blew up. I made the sensible decision, saving my marriage at the same time, when I bought a small station wagon. My wife was in some exotic location for work for a month and I am quite sure that she would have killed me if I had made the emotional decision to buy a truck in her absence. I still like the idea of a large truck, just not the community revulsion and the petrol bill.

Living here in Australia, they seem larger by comparison and with the price of petrol here would have to be an element of financial hari kiri and community revulsion to be seen driving one of those at the moment. There is already a strong negative opinion about Toorak Tractor drivers running the kids to school.

This weeks big whine by Australians is about the high price of petrol,which hovers around $1.60 a litre at the moment. Seventy eight percent of Australians surveyed in a political poll looking for politicians to fix the price of petrol. This unrealistic political anger is part of a very public backlash against the previously somewhat flawless Rudd Government, who during the election campaign had raised community expectations that they could do something about petrol prices and grocery prices, which clearly they cannot.

It is also part of this cultural shift in what we chose to drive, how much we chose to drive and a much needed public discussion like we are seeing in South Australia on public transport investment. The state treasurer announced a long term much needed and quite substantial public investment in transportation with the electrification of the existing diesel network, the extension of the tram and train network to new destinations and other investments. That is a big political call in this not so huge spread out, car loving urban area that is Adelaide.

It signals a big shift that has been a long time coming and a short time getting started thanks to big kick up the back side from Opec and their buddies in the oil supply business.

Of course if I wanted to be patriotic, I could always get a Ute mate. Think of all the chicks I could pull.
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Chervil said...

Good read. I have noticed around here that a growing number of 4-wheel drives sitting by the side of the road with a "for sale" sign stuck on. One said "low fuel" which I thought was funny.

Colin Campbell said...

I went on a trip one of the national parks and I had a very nerve racking coast down hil for over 20 miles not knowing whether I would be able to fill up again. They are petrol guzzlers of the first order. The combination of weight and a large engine really chews it up.

Jayne said...

We're still waiting for our Vic state govt to wake up to the need to extend the rail and tram networks instead of investing billions of $ in roads...*crickets chirping*...nope, they're still snoozing!

Helen said...

htThe only place I've ever really felt the need for a SUV was in the Errinundra, and that's a place where you have to go vast distances between petrol bowsers. Not compatible, somehow.

I mean it was my right and it seemed vaguely sensible at the time.

Driving a SUV, or indeed any petrol driven vehicle, is not a "right". It is a privilege we enjoy for a short blip in history. Or maybe that should be "have enjoyed".