Proving that stupid sellsPosted on August 17th, 2008 1 comment
Hart Seely of the Syracuse Post-Standard coughs up all the cliches and misinformation in this little tome to the Hummer. I’ll add some commentary interspersed with Seely’s tedious reportage…
Is it smug vs. smog?
By Hart Seely
These days, it’s not easy being king of the road.
Consider the Hummer H2, the four-wheel, four-star hotel. The thing goes anywhere with the quaint modesty of a Pershing tank. Of course, there is that 11 miles-per-gallon gas problem. Now and then, somebody accuses the owner of wrecking the planet.
Even Hummer dealers will say the Hummers get about 8-10, assuming you’re very lightfooted on the gas pedal. Nothing like driving your Hummer around town at 20 MPH to save fuel.
Then comes the Prius or, as some prefer, “Dorkmobile.” It fits into “green” parking spaces at the Carousel Center shopping mall and can ride in some cities’ carpool lanes. But now and then, somebody accuses its owner of secretly being happy about the price of gas.
Yes, because Prius owners don’t but gasoline. Why would Prius owners be happy about high gas prices? That’s about as stupid an accusation as I’ve read yet but I will say, at least it’s original.
Prius owners may not be impacted as much as Hummer owners by gas prices but neither group is cheering on $5 a gallon gas.
“There is the group that dislikes the Hummer and the group that dislikes the Prius,” said Ray Wert, editor of Jalopnik.com, a Web site that covers the auto industry. “And it’s for almost the same reason: the marketing of lifestyles that are almost nonexistent.”
Blather. Jalopnik is consistently one of the dumbest auto blogs running. And what does, “marketing of lifestyles that are almost nonexistent” mean anyway? I can’t comment on the Hummer lifestyle, whatever that is supposed to be but I know why I bought my Prius. I wanted a five passenger car that eat me alive in gas costs. It’s not a lifestyle, it was a very practical need that I had.
So goes the invisible duel between America’s two most loved and hated cars.
It’s Hummer vs. Prius, smog vs. smug, HOG vs. POG. (FYI: that’s Hummer Owners Groups v. Prius Owners Groups.)
On the nation’s paved and social highways, the two cars embody starkly different views of patriotism, opulence, personal freedom, ingenuity, lifestyle and say both sets of owners misunderstandings.
Honestly, this is grievously stupid. The idea that these two vehicles somehow embody the totality of the owners feelings about the issues above is ridiculous. It’s a car. It’s a transportation tool.
Take the anti-Hummer crowd, which includes environmental groups, left-leaners and mischief-makers. Web sites such as ihatehummer.com encourage motorists to give Hummer owners the one-finger salute. Last year, vandals smashed up a Washington, D.C., owner’s Hummer and scrawled an environmental message on its side. They denounced the car as a symbol of decadent wealth and waste.
Nice. Although, I have to admit I did think the Hummer salute thing was funny. For the first few minutes.
Never having been in the “I express my sense of self through my vehicle” crowd I really don’t understand a lot of this.
“They don’t know us,” said Joseph Contini, of Jordan, who runs Hakuna Matata Tanning Salon in Solvay and loves his 2005 H2. “That’s the biggest problem. They don’t know us.”
Then there are the anti-Prius legions. They include Rush Limbaugh, who once called Prius owners “phonies.” Web sites such as ihatetheprius.com rail about political correctness and pretentious Hollywood celebrities. Last spring, somebody in Santa Rosa, Calif., went on a Prius-bashing spree over several nights. To some, the hybrid symbolizes smugness.
Smug. Smug. Smug.
Seriously, it was funny once, when it was South Park. Since then, it’s like the annoying five year old that repeats something over and over again.
“All I can say is if anybody knows me, they won’t think that,” said Lois Bolton, 69, of Liverpool, who loves her 2004 Prius.
The notion of cars as socio-political icons goes back decades, says Syracuse automotive historian Walter Miller. In the 1960s, the Cadillac embodied wealth and conservatism, while the Volkswagen mini-bus became the hippie van of choice. In the 1980s, as U.S. car plants began closing, a cultural divide grew between people driving American made cars and Japanese imports.
Miller, who founded the now-closed Museum of Automobile History, says both cars could be future museum exhibits. The Hummer will fall to high gas prices, the Prius to technological advances.
Which will be most remembered?
“Probably the Hummer, assuming that we don’t ever go back to $10 a barrel gas,” Miller said. “It’ll be just like the ridiculous big fins of the 1950s that people kind of laugh at now. . . . It’ll be, ‘Those foolish Americans, look what they did!’ ”
Over the last 12 months, Hummer sales have plummeted 59 percent, despite a slimmed-down H3 model that gets better mileage than a few SUVs. General Motors might sell the Hummer line.
But Priuses are in such demand that Toyota upped their price last spring and still has a waiting list. The Prius gets an estimated 48 mpg in city driving.
The 2008 H2 15 feet long, nearly 7 feet wide, and with a chrome grill the size of a snow plow retails for $58,325, according to the Kelley Blue Book directory. But gas prices are taking their toll. A 2005 H2 with 60,000 miles is worth half the current price $28,665, a drop of 51 percent according to the Blue Book.
A new Toyota Prius Touring Hatchback costs $23,700. The used 2005 version, with the same mileage, comes in at $19,230 a drop of 18 percent.
Actually about $21K used. It depends on the source you’re quoting and whether you’re looking at retail or trade-in value but that’s a hair low.
As Hummers grow rare and Priuses common, their enemies likely will move on. Congress in 2003 closed a Hummer tax loophole that infuriated the anti-Hummer crowd. Since 2005, the tax breaks have gone to the Prius, with other incentives.
Eh? That credit, for the Prius, expired some time ago and, as far as I know, there are not any other current federal rebates or credits on the Prius. There are possibly some state incentives but none that I am aware of.
Last year, the Carousel Center in Syracuse as part of Destiny USA’s vision of an energy-efficient shopping mall began offering hybrid and economy cars choice parking slots near the entrances. Soon, protest letters to The Post-Standard singled out the Prius. Their owners caught the blowback.
“green” parking spots? Come on, that’s just childish. I understand what they’re saying but that’s really a terrible application.
“I used to get the comments like, ‘You stupid tree-hugger,’ ” recalled Richard Pietrafesa, a managing director of Destiny, who drives a Prius. “Now, people are a little more reserved.”
Pietrafesa said he’s sensed at times a view that Prius owners are smug. He gets it at the gas pump, from the 12-mpg crowd. Pietrafesa says he has no right to be smug, because his wife drives a big, gas-chugging Chevrolet Suburban.
“You look at the amount of gas she uses to get our family from one place to another, compared to what I use, and it’s ridiculous,” Pietrafesa said. “Either one, we’re just getting to the same place.”
Of course, no motorists endure more hairy eyeballs than those in the Hummer. Some develop a stock answer to critics.
“I’m 75 years old, and I didn’t get my first car until I was 55,” said Nancy Rifken, of Fayetteville. “As far as I’m concerned, I have about 30 years of gas coming to me. . . . I never had a chance to use up my portion.”
May as well take all that nasty oil with you, eh? A wonderful paean to the use it before you die crowd.
And don’t get me wrong, Rifken can use whatever she can afford. But I don’t have to respect her consumption for consumption’s sake attitude.
At 5 feet tall, Rifken said she enjoys being able to see the road in her H2.
“When I get out, what I usually find are guys laughing at me,” she said.
Many owners view their Hummer as more than a car.
“Some people spend their money on a boat, or an ATV, or on a camp,” Contini said. “Our thing is the Hummer and, believe me, it’s a lot of fun.”
Last January, he and his wife Kris bought a used H2 for about $32,000. It had just 13,000 miles on the odometer. They travel to off-road trail parks, where they drive a style called “treading lightly,” no easy feat in a 6,614-pound beast. Their CNY Hummer Club (http://cnyhummerclub.com) attended a Hummer jamboree this summer in central Pennsylvania. They plunged through mud holes, rolled down hills and up huge boulders, boldly going where no Jeep can go. They went places they couldn’t go having to pull each other out.
“There’s nothing like it, when the water is coming right over the top of the hood of the Hummer,” Contini said. “It’s amazing the power that these things have.”
But with $4.20-a-gallon gas, one owner brought his H1 to the Pennsylvania jamboree on a trailer, rather than drive it.
On a trailer? There’s a message there.
Contini and Brewerton Fire Department Chief Michael Stassi hope to launch a local chapter of HOPE: Hummer Owners Prepared for Emergency. The group can serve as a backup force to help public agencies during disasters, such as remote area searches. They trained at the Pennsylvania event.
At a Hummer Club meeting, members wore Hummer shirts, caps an entire Hummer line of gear. And behind Driver’s Village in North Syracuse, there is an obstacle course just for Hummers.
“I have a love for these vehicles in my heart,” said Mike Sweetman, sales consultant at Burdick Hummer at Driver’s Village, as he swerved an H2 around the steel gate and onto the course. He navigated a set of steel rollers, ascended a 16-inch vertical wall, then climbed a 60-degree peak, a mini roller-coaster ride.
“I could drive up onto the hood of that car, if somebody would let me,” he said.
For the record, he was not pointing toward a Prius.
But Hummer owners have taken their share of grief from the hybrid crowd.
“Wait until they have to replace the battery,” Contini said. “I’d like to see how these hybrids will hold up after a few years.”
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. The classic ignorant comment about the Prius. The batteries we use last a very long time and all of us have great warranties on the hybrid systems in our cars. If it helps t believe something else, please, feel free to. Just don’t delude yourself that you’re making a salient comment.
Two years ago, Hummer owners rejoiced when an Oregon-based research company claimed that, over the course of the cars’ lives, the Prius actually used more energy than the Hummer. The study didn’t hold up. Last year, the company refuted its findings.
Ah yes, the fully debunked and ridiculous CNW Marketing piece. Nice call. Just in case I wasn’t sure that the writer here was intellectually atrophied and otherwise off their game, now I can be sure.
But there is still the smugness. The TV show “South Park” has skewered Prius owners for contributing dangerous levels of “smug” to the environment. The car has relentless critics online.
“What is a Toyota Prius good for?” asked a headline in the popular Web site fark.com. “Target practice.”
-No one is required to buy a Prius.
-I shoot back.
Wert said the Prius’ popularity stems from what has always sold cars: image. “You’re not saving the environment by driving a Toyota Prius,” Wert said. “There is an internal combustion engine under the hood, just like there is one under the hood of a Hummer. The question is, is one car really morally superior? I don’t really know the answer. But I do know that if you talk to strong proponents of mass transit, or of really green living, they’ll tell you that it’s just a way to make people feel like they’re doing something for the environment.”
Morality? Of the Prius? You’re joking. Look, I can only speak for myself. I bought the car because it was, by far, and still is, the very best alternative for me to move adults around in reasonable comfort and not chew up a bunch of gas doing so. If you want Hummer, more power to you. You obviously have more money to waste than I do. But this isn’t a moral issue insofar as one person being better than another merely by owning a particular vehicle. There’s much more to it than that. So reducing this all down to cartoon proportions is not only simplistic but really rather childish.
Saving fuel, being more environmentally conscious isn’t a game one wins or loses. At least I think the idea is to improve where you stand. Do a little better. Contribute less waste, save a little more. It’s not a shallow contest where one person is crowned “green” and the rest of us are terrible people.
But maybe that’s just me.
And then there is the secret dream of Hummer owners: The mini-tank that gets 50 miles to the gallon the cross between the Hummer and the Prius.
It would certainly get their attention in the Middle East.
Hart Seely can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-2247.
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