So, how do you like that SUV now...sucker?

It's time to say what a lot of people have been thinking for years. I hate SUV's, always have. They're too damn big, too damn dirty and too damn dangerous. The only good thing about gas prices moving towards $4 a gallon is that more and more SUV's are being traded for cleaner, safer vehicles...and fewer new buyers name the big gas-guzzlers as their first choice.

How did we get here? Over the last 20 years, the auto industry has taken advantage of convoluted federal mileage standards to foist a great "bait and switch" on the American public. Those mileage standards exempted big heavy vehicles (trucks) from the mpg requirements for cars. It even exempted them from "gas-guzzler" taxes. So Detroit had an "eureka" moment.

Maybe it went like this...

Bob...the auto executive: "Maybe we take a truck body, slap a big passenger compartment on it, jack up the price and advertise it as a spacious, go-anywhere vehicle...big and spacious. Can we sell that?

Skip...the advertising exec: "Well, I don't know...I mean it'll really be just a big box. It'll drive like a truck because it is one, get terrible mileage and be, well...ugly. Still, people aren't that smart. We proved that with the Vega and the Pinto. If we have a big enough budget and sell it as a safe family vehicle..."

Chuck...the engineer: "But it won't be safe. If you put a body that big on a truck chassis, it'll roll right over...and if it hits a regular sized car, won't be pretty. People won't be able to see around it in traffic or at intersections, and it'll take a city block to stop one of the damn things."

Bob... "Well Chuck, I know you have things to do...thanks for the input. You get on back to work. Now Skip, let's talk about the ad budget... we're gonna go big on this one because if we can sell a truck and make them think it's a car, we won't be able to count all the money we'll make".

Now all this happened when gas was cheap and the environment didn't seem as fragile as it does now, so even if you fell for the most successful marketing campaign in the history of the auto industry and it felt so sweet to climb up into the seat of that Explorer or does it feel now when it takes $70 to fill the damn thing up, when you know that makes us more dependent on the Middle East, and you're contributing more to global warming than the people driving by and giving you those dirty looks.

Oh, and one more thing. Do all the worst drivers just drive SUV's or do SUV's just make you that way.

OK...I feel better now. See you on the 405. I'm the guy in that hybrid that just passed you in the car-pool lane.