Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Truck Stop


So Hummer has officially gone the way of the Edsel -- consigned now to the scrap heap of history. If you're like me, you thought the behemoth GM vehicle -- which seemed to inspire either reverence or bitter derision -- bit the dust several months ago, but apparently there was always a plan in the works to try to get a Chinese company to pick up the contract on the brand; that bid finally fell through, and so Hummer is no more.

I don't really have a dog in this fight because I don't drive a Hummer and wasn't planning on buying one, mostly for the same reason a lot of people weren't buying them anymore, enough to kill the entire line: For the most part they're completely impractical. Thing is, though, that's a personal choice reflecting my own preferences and lifestyle. In other words -- and I'll be brutally honest here -- I probably wouldn't have taken into account any of the traditional left-wing considerations like the effect an SUV has on the environment or America's overall dependence on foreign oil when deciding whether or not to buy a Hummer. If I could afford it and it worked for me, I might've bought one. That simple.

The Hummer brand died a fair death, meaning that the market spoke and it succumbed (although admittedly, GM should've dropped it earlier considering how much money it was losing for a carmaker that was subsisting on taxpayer money). That's capitalism. That's how the system is supposed to work. What's obnoxious, though, is the reaction of some of the commenters over at HuffPo to the news of Hummer's demise. I get that to many the brand has long stood as a symbol of selfish excess, a perennially reviled Texas-sized dragon that the left has always wanted to see slain for the supposed greater good. But the cries of "good riddance!" "thank the Lord these will no longer be made" and "score another win for the planet" as a response to the end of an American vehicle -- and one which wasn't nearly as terrible when it came to gas mileage as its rabid detractors made it out to be, particularly not the H3 -- seem slightly ridiculous.

Understand something: I'm all for being socially responsible, and I certainly get that there are times when people need to be pushed hard in the direction of doing what's good for the community, the country and the planet. But you can't always mandate responsible behavior. If you do that wantonly, you take away freedom. And while it's true that freedom should in theory come with responsibility, it's also true that not everyone is going to live up to his or her end of the bargain; the price of freedom, the ability to live your life how you see fit, is that you have to tolerate the guy you think is an arrogant, thoughtless jerk living life the way he wants. There are always gonna be selfish assholes. You can't legislate them out of existence.

There's of course an argument to be made, and a legitimate one, that we're all interconnected and therefore that big-ass Hummer does in fact have a direct impact on you, the country, the planet, etc. But exactly where is the sweet spot between what's right for me and what's right for the larger body -- in cases where the two notions are mutually exclusive -- and more to the point, who should have the power to make that official and binding ruling?

Not everyone could afford to, or even wanted to, drive a Hummer -- which means that there were never that many of them on the road to begin with (in spite of what hip-hop videos might've made it seem like). They were always more than balanced out by the millions and millions of people driving sensible, efficient Honda Accords, Chevy Cobalts or whatever. In other words, it seems like a really silly, purely symbolic and ultimately ineffectual thing to cheer for: the fact that the world is finally rid of the big bad Hummer.

25 comments:

jane said...

I can understand their dancing on the Hummer's grave since I watched this, about tax breaks and the Hummer and the EV1.

Also, we've had the means for efficient electric vehicles for fricking ever, but we lost the edge in engineering decades ago. You can decide for yourself why that happened, but this is not a bad summary.

Jeremy Feist said...

This is pretty much my exact reaction to the news:

Oh, they've stopped making the hummer.

...

(Resumes eating)

If you gave me a rat's ass, and then I cut it in half, and then cut that half in half, and then set the whole fucking thing on fire, I STILL would not be able to give that quartered, burned rat's ass. Did I approve of the Hummer? No. Am I dancing around gleefully like we just beat global warming forever and ever amen? Fuck no. It's a fucking car, people. Get over it.

Dan said...

Chez said: "But you can't always mandate responsible behavior."

I disagree. That sounds an awful lot like the far right's "let the market decide" line that caused the banks to collapse.

Think about the food industry. Governments are starting to get involved. Cities are banning trans-fats in restaurants and some governments are pulling soda vending machines (is that what you guys call them?) out of schools.

Going back to the auto industry, Kuwait used to own a chunk of Dalmier-Chrysler (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-pope/why-it-matters-that-kuwai_b_46121.html). Wonder why Chrysler never had any hybrids?

If California hadn't set such strict emission standards, nobody would've bothered unless things got so ridiculously bad that people stopped buying cars.

Anonymous said...

I hated the fucking things because I work for the Army in the design of the MRAP. Those of the vehicles that we had to basically design on the fly and are still trying to build them as fast a possible to try and prevent our troops from getting killed by small arms and explosives. You know when the first V-bottom anti-IED design troop transport was built? Fucking 1979 by the South African military. Great to see how forward thinking we are. The fact that our president and military leaders thought the military issued Hummer was good enough to do anything other than drive around a secured US military base is simply dumbfounding. We essentially sent our young men and women into a heavy combat zone with a fucking pickup truck.

After seeing the raw data of just how deadly unprepared we sent our kids into Iraq...Well I hate hummers on a whole different level.

Chez said...

I was waiting for this argument, Dan, because it can be extrapolated on ad infinitum. Common sense, folks.

No, I'm not suggesting leaving everything up to the soulless whims of the market and not saying the government shouldn't sometimes enact laws that ostensibly make people do what's good for everyone else. That's what laws are actually for. I simply implied that it can be, and God how I hate to used this term, a slippery slope when it comes to intruding on personal freedoms.

For everyone who's going to make this claim: I get that there will always be corporate entities that are out there trying to profit off our bad habits or who quash electric car research in the name of big oil or who want to keep soda machines in our kids' schools because it makes money. That's just a fact. It would take a massive sea change in the very nature of the capitalist economy to break free from that. But once again, who should be in charge of cracking down on things that people actually want -- things that may not necessarily be good for them? Yeah, I will sound right-wing here -- but what the hell happened to personal responsibility? I get that a lot of Americans are blithering idiots, Lord knows I can be, but those idiots are still in large part -- not completely, but in large part -- entitled to live their lives how they see fit. My point is that there's a very fine line that needs to be straddled between taking care of the big picture and not treading on individual liberties.

To that point, I've never been fully on board with the trans-fat thing because although I get that it's terrible for you and people should be warned up and down about the dangers of it, can a ban like that lead to places you eventually don't want to see it go? Put it this way: There are restaurants -- entire cities -- that have banned foie gras. Well, I happen to like foie gras; what gives you the right to tell me I can't eat it? Because it hurts ducks? Fair enough, but I'm sorry, I don't really concern myself with that. Maybe that makes me a heartless bastard, who knows? Either way, though, I kind of consider it my discretion to eat foie gras if I feel like it.

My overall argument was this: Like Jeremy said very well, who gives a shit about the Hummer, who ever gave a shit about the Hummer? It was always just a slightly larger than normal car.

jane said...

Forget trans-fats, Chez, did the government rule that Hummers were illegal? No, the market has spoken. So why the Libertarian resentment? Are you really that disturbed by comments on HuffPo? As if! Your civil liberties are intact, and I bet that if you have the money, you can buy something akin to the Hummer, somewhere. And have it shipped to you, wherever you are. Probably without ever going outside.

Love you, mean it. xo. Also, psymak.

Vermillion said...

While I get the argument for wanting the Hummer gone, my thing is this: why are people CELEBRATING it?

I mean, the people who are cheering are people who had no real intention of ever buying one. And the people who liked them more or less bought them already. And demand was already down in the dumps.

Plus, you still got the folks that, you know, had jobs building the damn things. Now they are pretty much expendable (if not already canned).

So why are people gloating about it?

I don't know, I am kinda sleepy right now.

It just sounds ridiculous to be happy about it, is all.

Anonymous said...

That and most Hummers I ever shared the road with might as well have had a little yellow "Douche On Board" sign bobbing in the rear window.

Anonymous said...

I'm o.k with the Hummer too. I can see that big is beautiful. Really big is really beautiful. I think GM - when it is finally left to its own devices - will probably build an 8 cylinder skyscraper. And I agree with you that the government should not say a word about it.

But the insatiable pricks who buy it should have to build their own roads. Why should I have to pay for more, wider lanes so they can enjoy their excess?

Chez said...

That's a good point. Really the natural defense against Hummers is to call their owners douchebags.

brite said...

"...because I don't drive a Hummer and wasn't planning on buying one."
Phew! For a minute there Chez, I thought you had a teeny penis, like every male that ever bought a Hummer.

Chez said...

Oh and Jane, of course I'm not disturbed by the comments at HuffPo. I just think they're silly. Trust me, this post is incredibly free of any sort of righteous indignation.

Adam said...

To be honest I am saddened by the loss of the Hummer.

It was so incredibly oversized and unnecessary that it was hilarious watching people driving one, knowing they were thinking "Fuck yeah I drive a Hummer, check me out." Maybe I sound judgmental but they look ridiculous. I once saw one in Hanoi and it literally took up two thirds of the street, moments like that are priceless.

Personally, the amusement derived far outweighed the negative impact they had on the environment. Which as Chez said was nowhere near as severe as people made out, because barely anyone could afford/were lame enough to drive one.

There are so many better ways we could further environmentalism, that getting worked up by something as inconsequential as a Hummer is counter-productive.

Che Grovera said...

Don't anyone tell Hilary Duff that the hummer is no more...

CNNfan said...

Chez said, "I get that there will always be corporate entities that are out there trying to profit off our bad habits or who quash electric car research in the name of big oil"

Quoted from:
Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Did You Know?
Did you know that Thomas Edison worked on electric car batteries in the early 1900s? He thought it would be the car of the future. His wife's favorite car to drive was a Detroit Electric. Today, Thomas Edison National Historical Park has three electric cars dating from 1908 to 1914.


Cars powered by electricity have been around for over a century. The first electric cars looked like horseless carriages. When I saw these antique electric cars typical of earlier times and valued for their age on display Thomas Edison National Historical Park ...
I couldn't help but wonder. We were able to build electric cars a hundred years ago. Isn't claiming that electric cars still need research today, like trying to claim we were smarter about electric cars a hundred years ago?

kanye said...

A few years back, I was driving home one night and I got into and accident...some idiot decided it would be a good idea to make a right turn from the left hand turn lane and he t-boned me.

I got to the rental car place right as they were closing; I had to have a car...I needed to get out early the next morning, before 5am. Unfotunately, they didn't have much of a selection: Some piece of shit subcompact that looked like it was on its last leg, a couple of cargo vans and a Hummer. I took the Hummer, spent the next day driving it around.

Driving a Hummer was a lot like having a cock the size of a fire hydrant: It looked good at first, but it didn't take long to figure out that damned thing just didn't fit anywhere.

L. said...

The gas mileage thing is annoying, but it's not up to me to tell people they can't spend 80% of their salary on gas. It is, however, up to me as an internet user to comment on how people I've never met are douchebags. You don't look like a badass with a monumental cock that just won't fit in a normal car when you drive a Hummer; you look like you're staging an invasion on the hostile territory that is little Amanda's soccer practice. It's a suburban assault vehicle and it's completely and unnecessarily ridiculous.

Chez said...

Exactly. I get that you can make the argument that ostensibly gulping down gas is bad for the entire country, but for the most part anyway, if somebody wants to spend $600 a month on a gas bill, that's his or her business.

One distinction that I touched on in the post and really want to make clear is that there's, literally, a big difference between the Hummer H2 and the H3. I really don't see why anybody would need something as massive as the H2 -- although once again, not my decision to make -- but the H3 really isn't any larger than a normal SUV. In fact, there are a couple of SUVs that it's smaller than. For the record, I rented an H3 once and actually think they're pretty nice.

Oh, and I'm currently driving a pretty big, fully-loaded 2006 Dodge 1500 pick-up which I never thought I'd like but have quickly grown to really, really enjoy. (Since I'm not in Miami full-time and haven't yet decided whether I'm going to eventually move completely back to NYC, it's not a good idea for me to buy a car, therefore I'm temporarily using what used to be my father's vehicle.)

That's right, "I'm Chez Pazienza -- and I drive a truck."

Benoît from Ottawa said...

The Death of The Hummer:

much exaggerated.

Au contraire, dear confrères, it's now a classic.

A collection car.

A source of increased pride with some.

More French youse guys: Plus ça change (, plus c'est la même chose).

(Little pee-ess: I'm not sure some company somewhere that wasn't planning to ain't gonna say 'hey, I'll buy it'.)

Le Penseur said...

"There are always gonna be selfish assholes. You can't legislate them out of existence."

Kudos, Chez, for articulating the perfect reason why we cannot base law and public policy on how the worst segment of society behaves.

Web Dunce said...

Actually, I understand the elation on the left, albeit a bit petty and childish. For many people, myself included, the Hummer symbolized a perverse "designer war" vehicle that was primarily driven by annoying pro-war Republicans. That whole "America - Fuck Yeah" segment of the population that is begging to be humiliated or at the very least taken down several notches on the bad ass scale. There is a not so subtle whiff of the macabre when you stop to think what the Hummer was really intended to do. The values and mindset of Americans has shifted over the last couple of years. Case in point - my Republican blowhard father-in-law bought the new blood red H3 a few years ago. Complete with a vanity plate that unfortunately has my last name on it. Now that some time has passed, he has since retired and volunteers with the VA transporting veterans to appointments, etc., he's a little embarrassed by his choice of vehicle. You can see it in his eyes and the way he gingerly gets out of it. If he can change his views on that kind of perverse excess - anyone can. Hence, the speaking market and the collective "thank God" from the left.

CNNfan said...

Chez, Go ahead and thank your dad again for giving you some really good advice... Dodge has a reputation for building high performance engineering and affordability into their quality trucks.

I have a 4x4... Can you guess which one?

We are getting twelve inches of snow today. So, here is another tip about cars, like your dad gave you about trucks:

My Chevy Geo Metro, is so excellent in the snow, and it does not even need snow tires! It uses the same tires all years long, which saves money.

While other cars are spinning out in the snow on the highway and driving at 5mph... I cruise along in my Chevy Geo Metro with great traction at 35mph in the middle of a blizzard, like a little snow mobile, while getting fifty miles to the gallon... Which saves a lot of money.

Vermillion said...

I'm Chez Pazienza, and I drive a truck.

So....nudie pics are next, I assume?

Alanna said...

CNNfan...I call Shenanigans. 3 Cylinder Geo Metro.? I drive an Acura RSX and even Im scared of slippage in this weather. Geo Metro? Rather just buy me a casket with wheels.

CNNfan said...

Alanna,

At first, I thought that too. So I don't blame you. When I bought the Geo I said, "Oh, this probably sucks in the snow, right? ... But, I can just use my truck in the winter. So it doesn't matter to me." The car dealer Bob replied, "No. This is front wheel drive, so it is good in the snow" but I still couldn't believe him. It did not make much sense to me, and I didn't care either way. I figured it was a fun to drive supermini for summertime.

Then in the fall, my mechanic Leon at the R & S Strauss store told me, "My brother has one of these, they are great in the snow" and I remembered that I had heard that before from Bob the car dealer.

Then winter came along, and while driving home from work during a big snow storm, I said, "Oh! this is what those guys were talking about." I was surprised as I passed a sporty Monte Carlo spinning out in the snow, that couldn't even get itself out of the exit without fishtailing.

Your Acura RSX is a slick looking coupe, just like the Monte Carlo, but like most sports cars it, "just ain't a snow car"

(Acura RSX: 4 out of 10 in the snow?)
http://townhall.edmunds.com/
direct/view/.eec8750/2496

So, be careful out there, Alanna. Any car can be a casket on wheels, which I felt was goth of you to joke about. On a brighter note, you made some other good points...

It's a Chevy supermini, so the Geo Metro is more like a miniature Camaro and Toyota Corolla combined. It has reclining bucket seats, A/C, and a CD player for a trip to Lovers' lane, and it is kinda quick with its little fuel efficient fuel injected engine.

It is true that some first generation 3 cylinder models (maybe before they were Chevy?) had a one out of five crash rating. While there are not many of those old models on the market for sale anymore... Still searching the internet for crash ratings according to the year, is prudent, if you are thinking about buying a Geo, one of the hottest selling cars on eBay, according to a FOX News report (kudos to FOX news for that reporting).

However, my Chevy Geo Metro is the third generation It has four cylinders, and a four out of five crash rating. Granted, while driving a supermini, I do avoid tailgating big trucks on the highway! But at least it has a reasonable 4/5 crash rating.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love saving lots of gas money every week. It is something you just never get used to. Every time I pull into a gas station, I have the same reaction,

"MAN THIS IS %&@*ing GREAT!"

Saving as much as forty dollars every week, without exaggeration, is practically like having a car that pays its own car insurance bill and repair bills. Honestly, the Chevy Geo Metor is very reliable and a lot less expensive to maintain than the average car. Auto parts are cheaper and it requires less of them. No snow tires required, and a full engine tuneup costs much less.

On the other hand, when I pull in with my huge 4x4 truck, and fill up the tank... I drive away feeling like someone just docked my salary!