I’ve always wondered about the appeal of the Hummer. It’s a ludicrous cartoon of a vehicle, wholly unsuited to any purpose except getting rid of any excess gasoline you have lying around and compensating, not too subtly, for an owner’s shortcomings in other areas. I’d curse when I’d see them parked in the narrow streets of Philadelphia, taking two parking spaces instead of one, shouldering out into the traffic lane so you had to risk a head-on collision to get around it. I don’t write stories about serial killers, but if I did, my serial killer would go around with a rocket launcher, blowing up Hummers and Hummer drivers with reckless abandon. Hell, I’d do it myself if rocket launchers weren’t so crazy expensive.
But now, it appears $4 gas might do what minimal intelligence could not: consign the absurd Hummer to the vast Museum of American Dumb-assery. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner announced plans to close four SUV plants and said the company is rethinking the whole Hummer thing. Evidently, when the weight of your vehicle exceeds three tons, as the Hummer does, mileage suffers.
I don’t know how much they’re paying Rick, but it might be too much. Even GM’s dumbest customers are stampeding to get on the high-mileage train; Rick remains in the men’s room with his pants around his ankles. Somewhere in his briefcase are the company’s financial reports from the ’70s, which might have encouraged him to make this announcement, say, two years ago. Now you can’t give away a full-size SUV, much less sell one. U.S. automakers’ strategy so far has been to offer these stupid “hybrid” SUVs. A hybrid Escalade? That’s like ordering a banana split and telling them to hold the cherry: too many calories.
But really, it goes beyond mere mileage. Fact is, SUVs the size of school buses just aren’t cool anymore. The time of enormous vehicles, like the time of enormous pants and visible underwear in the world of hip-hop, is over. Perhaps you also remember platform soles and shirts with collars the size of jib sails. If you have a photo of yourself standing proudly beside your big black Expedition or Yukon, burn it now. I’m not kidding. It’ll save some awkward explaining in a few years.