The family station wagon used to be just fine. Subtract the World Federation of Sibling Wrestling that commonly took place in the backseat and cargo area of the old gal and you have a perfect slice of Americana.
When baby-boomers started to raise families of their own, the acquisition and portability of their material possessions and the material possessions of their children became a priority. More vehicle space was required. Enter Chrysler Motors to the rescue. They marketed and produced vehicles that reshaped the family driving experience with their popular minivans. Baby boomers ate it up. It was a good thing too; Chrysler was in trouble. Actually, when haven’t they been in trouble?
Households felt woefully inadequate if they did not travel about in their minivans. To squire about their offspring in anything less than a minivan meant that they were poor providers or just not capable of being good soccer moms. That minivan was sweet with its mini-passengers physically controlled by entering and exiting from one sliding door alone. Who cared if the item or person that required access was on the left side of the vehicle, screw them. They would just have to squirm awkwardly out of the big, right-side door, while the door person waited to exercise the arm strength of Paul Bunyan to close it all up. That sliding door was pure genius in practicality; it had the all-encompassing power of Coupon Suzy. In fact, why aren’t all car doors made that way?
The minivan was the required family vehicle for the 1980’s. However, that proud reign was very short-lived. I theorize that it was a commercial for the Nissan Pathfinder that triggered the near abandonment of the minivan. Perhaps you recall that captivating commercial, it was the one in which a young energetic couple drove from the USA to the ancient ruins of a South American village, documentary style. Their journey was captured in once-in-a-lifetime moments that could only be done in a sport utility vehicle. There they were, in love and sharing their adventure through muddy roads, meeting friendly locals and being acquainted with foreign culture.
Millions of boomers saw that commercial and said, “That could be us! We love adventure. We could travel off the road and off the map. Let’s buy an SUV!” They did buy that SUV. They bought it in droves. Every automobile manufacturer put out a version of an SUV, even Volvo (Volvo?)
The fantasy of an off-road SUV adventure became blurred by the fact that owners mostly used their SUV’s to drive to work or simply to the dry cleaners. New TV commercials often boasted of their vehicle’s capability at conquering boulders, hills and mountains. Most SUV owners wince at the prospect of encountering a street pothole, much less a boulder. Even newer commercials boasted of their vehicle’s luxurious leather interiors, audiophile stereo, DVD and navigation systems, not the type of SUV that is going anywhere near Machu Picchu.
The rationale for boomers to own and maintain an SUV borders on the logic that most hoarders employ in their defense,’ it’s going to come in handy some day’. However, the MPG’s are terrible, insurance and upkeep is expensive and up until recently, the safety of most SUV’s brought many passengers closer and closer to an appointment with St. Peter. At least baby boomers wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan. The answer to justifying ownership of an SUV could be found in the economy of a few hybrid models, yet no one is buying them.
So why do owners even need an SUV? Is it to sit high above the nearest Ford Fiesta?
Nope, the answer can be discovered at virtually any public parking lot; it is to park next to the most unassuming car in the vicinity and to park so close to that car that the driver cannot possibly open his or her door. I have been the driver of that unassuming car many times. Let me just say, there will always be a little bit of me on a little bit of them, if you catch my drift.