I Hate 1984

The music and movies were epochal. The politics were abysmal. A poison valentine to the year that won't go away.

Meanwhile, trucks, minivans, and the modern SUV are really just a bunch of luxury car parts bolted onto the rigid, not-very-safe structure of a truck. They're cheap to build and sell for big money. There's $12,000 in profit in every $36,000 Ford Expedition. There's $8,000 in every Dodge Durango, according to the New York Times' excellent former automotive industry reporter, Keith Bradsher.

At this point, it's tempting to veer off into a tangent about how Iacocca's corporate heirs manage to keep convincing people that they need ever bigger, ever more dangerous road hogs. So big and so dangerous that they're rendering the compact car's expensive safety engineering all but obsolete. What inspired capitalism it is, then, that the behemoths' sellers get that profit by preying on our more reptilian fears.

But I digress. By 1997, minivans and other "light trucks" constitute half of all family vehicles sold, and were poised to make up the lion's share of the reemerging smog problem. Since 1998, the number of SUVs sold in Minnesota has increased 79 percent. In January, Subaru announced that rather than comply with fuel efficiency standards for its Outback sedan--which it cheerfully markets as a progressive, "green" alternative--it was raising the chassis by an inch and a half, marking the first time I can think of that a four-door car has actually been classified as a truck.

Dan Picasso

I'd like to think that the factory workers who failed to tip me for 10 straight months got theirs, but in all likelihood they're probably raking in the overtime faster than they can spend it.

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