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Long Live the SUV?

The sport utility vehicle must feel like rock n’ roll, it has been proclaimed dead too often to count.

Yet scarcely a week goes by without headlines about a hybrid SUV winning a “green car” award, or even an “extreme hybrid” that soon may get more than 150 miles per gallon.

The SUV has increased hipness in recent years in terms of exterior looks, and safety ratings, and even gas mileage is improving.

So why all the exaggerations about its demise?

People Are Still Talking About SUVs

Traffic“The SUV craze was a bubble and now it is bursting,” automotive economist George Hoffer told The Boston Globe recently. “It’s an irrational vehicle. It’ll never come back.”

Coming back insinuates something left in the first place. A look around on any roadway likely will indicate otherwise. 

Drive by a dealership, and people are staring at sticker prices in SUV windows.

They always will attract families, with dads who don’t want a station wagon, and moms avoiding the dreaded minivan. Right?

Green Car

Is America Really Going Green?

April 2008 sales figures for SUVs disagree, certainly there are indications that gas prices are changing consumer patterns.

Add other factors, such as criticism of things including safety and pollution, and a growing “greening” of America, it’s certainly reasonable that some people predict the end of the SUV’s run of popularity.

Maybe it’s just a question of when. When will we see the return of roadways filled with only cars?  Come to think of it, wouldn’t it make driving easier due to improved lines of sight?

The Perfect Suburban Vehicle

SuburbiaAs the automotive industry adapts to the changed marketplace, SUVs have become more streamlined and aerodynamic. It’s hard to imagine being attracted today to the old Jeep and Land Rover models.

So perhaps it’s just a matter of how future SUVs will look and perform. We know growth of the suburbs helped spur the great SUV sales, with soccer moms galore rolling them off the lot. 

Suburbs are expected to continue to grow, and with them a growing marketplace for the perfect suburban vehicle.

What’s Coming Next?

Of course it’s impossible to predict the future, but let’s examine two recent examples of how the SUV might reinvent itself.

Chevy Tahoe Hybrid

Tahoe Hybrid

Image from Wikio
When the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid SUV was named the 2008 Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, many people scratched their head. A gas-guzzling SUV as the greenest car?

The 2008 Tahoe Hybrid gets 21 to 22 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency on a vehicle with a V8 that carrys a full-size SUV of about 5,000 pounds.

Ultimately Chevrolet was honored for applying technology that delivered a 30-percent gas mileage improvement in the Tahoe, as well as the ability to use the new technology in other cars.

Extreme Hybrid SUV

Image from Auto Nager
Extreme Hybrid SUVThis year, AFS Trinity Power Corp. has touted its XH-150s, an “Extreme Hybrid” SUV that the company claims will get more than 150 miles per gallon, and move 0 to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds

The figures were for a medium-sized family SUV.

This hybrid focuses more on use of electricity, unlike the typical hybrid today that most often relies on gas. 

The intent, according to the company, is to license the technology to automakers to use the XH drive train in their SUVs, and other vehicles.

The Jury is Out

There’s no certainty that a 30-percent gas mileage improvement, or even 150 miles per gallon, will save the SUV. 

Empty Jury BoxHowever both cases above illustrate that the SUV is important enough to tinker with to keep it in the adoring eyes of the buying public.

Just as rock n’ roll doesn’t sound like it did in 1956, the SUV of tomorrow won’t look and act like the original military vehicles that spawned them. 

Yet Rock n’ roll remains.  Will the SUV?