How to Fell a Giant

It seems that a month of high gas prices have been enough to weak­en the Amer­i­can resolve of dri­ving the biggest vehi­cles on the plan­et. Most rea­sons for why we drove larg­er vehi­cles than, say, our Euro­pean or Asian coun­ter­parts was that we had more space and longer dis­tances to trav­el. I think it’s pret­ty clear that rel­a­tive­ly cheap fuel was the rea­son. It sim­ply did­n’t cost us much to dri­ve a vehi­cle capa­ble of car­ry­ing nine peo­ple but with all the seats but on empty.

Now that times have changed, GM — of all com­pa­nies — appears to be blink­ing and chang­ing course as a result. They have announced they are going to axe the Tahoe, Sub­ur­ban, and Yukon as soon as next year. With Hum­mer sale down a whop­ping 60% in May, they appear to be poised to kill of that badge once and for all. For the past two decades, with SUV sales being so hot, car com­pa­nies like GM have put a lot of effort into sell­ing those vehi­cles. Those chick­ens have long since hatched and, with GM’s total sales drop­ping 27%1, appar­ent­ly just got their necks wrung. I’m not try­ing to pick on GM. In fact, I want to point them out as an exam­ple of a com­pa­ny that seems to be think­ing about what the roads will look like in the next decade or two. They deserve some cred­it for killing off some of the gas-guz­zling dinosaurs and putting some R&D work in to some alter­nate vehi­cles. I get the impres­sion that it is more than just green­wash­ing with them, now; they seem to feel a real threat to their busi­ness in the long run.

And to be hon­est, if it took only about six weeks of high gas prices to make this kind of change, we may see much more of this in the near future; not in decade or more. I hate the cost of high gas prices as much as any­one. How­ev­er, I once again have to admire the side effects of what the can do for reduc­ing car­bon emissions.

  1. I’d be mis­tak­en if I did­n’t ack­owledge that the total eco­nom­ic pic­ture in Amer­i­ca is worse than a year ago. Not just gas prices, but across the board. How­ev­er, the two are pret­ty tight­ly linked and eco­nom­ic down­turns are just as assured to hap­pen even­tu­al­ly as ris­ing gas prices. []