Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Final Farewell

Come let us now remove our hats, lower our eyes and bid farewell to a piece of Americana which will be soon take its place on the slag heap of history.

Bang the muffled drum, hang the black bunting. And say your final goodbyes to the Hummer, an automotive monstrosity that clogged our streets and parking lots, sucked up our gas and polluted our air for
too many years.

So long, Hummer. May you rest in pieces.

The end came recently when General Motors pulled the plug on this street-legal tank, whose sales were declining faster than Tiger Wood’s endorsements. It was so bad, GM couldn’t even sell the brand to the Chinese, who
apparently can smell a lemon from across the Pacific Ocean.

Just who was responsible for foisting this behemoth on an unsuspecting public?

Why, no other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who put the glutes in government.

It seems that while Arnold was on a movie shoot some years back he spotted a convoy of military vehicles called Humvees and fell completely, madly in love. Too bad he didn’t heed the old military saying that an elephant is a
mouse built to government specs.

His lust to own one convinced the manufacturer to have a go at offering them civilians.

Arnie ended up owning a fleet of Hummers. And the vehicle appeared to be particularly popular with status-seeking suburbanites and under-endowed males.

Great move, Governor, except this hunk of iron was to responsible driving what bacon cheeseburgers are to cardiac health.

It weighed in north of 8,000 pounds, got eight miles to the gallon, cost a fortune to buy and insure and had its fair share of mechanical problems. Riding in it was like looking out of a mailbox. If that isn’t bad enough, it had the carbon footprint of a coal-burning steel mill.

The Hummer was quite possibly America’s ultimate symbol of wretched excess.

It made its debut following the first Gulf War, a made for television conflict in which it played a starring role.
A gas guzzler? Most people assumed it ran on testosterone. Actors and athletes made it the ultimate bling.
There was also a misguided sense of patriotism in owning the vehicle that carried our boys to victory in battle.

When gas prices began to soar, GM tried to downsize the car from monstrous to merely monumental. It didn’t work. Post 9/11 Americans were beginning to understand the pitfalls of our dependence on foreign oil and the warnings about global temperature increases were causing concern.

That didn’t stop the GM folks from trying to sell ice to the Eskimos. Mark LaNeve, vice president of sales, service and marketing for GM North America, said he'd love for consumers to begin thinking of Hummers as tools to get a job done. "No one criticizes a bulldozer for its gas mileage. That's because it's built to do a job."

But as the Sierra Club's Daniel Becker remarked, "It's one thing if it's carrying soldiers to and from a fight, it's another if it'shauling lattes home from Starbucks."

So what did it all mean?

Absolutely nothing in the long run. The chromed giants of the 50s and 60s and the muscle cars of the
1970s were replaced with Japanese fuel-sippers when oil supplies were low and prices soared.

When prices went down and availability was restored, the SUV made its way onto the automotive scene where it enjoyed a long reign.

Now, with gas prices rising and petrol dollars fueling terrorism (not to mention Iran’s nuclear ambitions), we turn our eyes to hybrids and electric vehicles. And they’re coming.

But the pendulum swings. At some point, muscular vehicles will come rumbling down the street

As one publication pointed out, "Being big and powerful is essential to our national identity.”

No comments: