Before I get into this, I believe an apology is in order. You come to Jalopnik every day for the same things: cool stories about cool vehicles. Reviews of exotic sports cars. Russian dash cams. Videos of Chris Harris drifting. The incoherent ramblings of Travis Okulski. And here I am, writing my third article in a row about sport-utility vehicles.
For this, I apologize. I apologize to anyone who wants to buy an old SUV and actually take it off-road, since you’ll now be competing with leagues of wealthy men who take investment advice from Jalopnik. I apologize to all the Hummer H2 owners I offended with my column about how stupid they look. And I especially apologize to the Hummer H2 owners who took time out of their busy weightlifting schedule to send e-mails calling me a “dooshbag,” only to receive no reply in return. Really, guys, I’m sorry.
Fortunately, today’s article covers a side of the SUV world I think most Jalopnik readers will enjoy. And that is: the death of the SUV.
As usual, I think it’s important to address your thoughts before I get started. If I had to guess, I’d say your thoughts are something along the lines of: You idiot! The SUV will never die, no matter how many positive articles Jalopnik writes about station wagons! Unless, of course, you’re a Hummer H2 owner, in which case you’re thinking: You dooshbag! You wouldn’t understand the Hummer H2, because it’s for REAL MEN. Then you spit out some chewing tobacco.
But I believe the SUV will die, and I’m here to explain exactly why.
To do that, let’s go back to the 1950s. You may remember the 1950s, but probably not, according to Jalopnik’s demographic research. You’re much more likely to remember the 1980s, or possibly the 1990s, which were a lot like the 1950s except with considerably more narcotics.
Fortunately, I recently became an expert on the 1950s, thanks to one of those Buzzfeed articles entitled something like “30 Ways to Tell You Grew Up in the 1950s.” (Reason 22: Check your birth certificate.) As you might expect, this article didn’t get very many Facebook shares, though I’m told Buzzfeed received numerous telephone calls asking how to print it.
Anyway – as I understand it, this is what the 1950s were like:
[SETTING: A medium-sized house with a well-manicured lawn. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The women are vacuuming.]
Son: Good morning, pop!
Dad: Good morning, scout!
Mom: Hello, dear!
Dad: Betty, please don’t speak unless I address you.
Son: Dad, are the Russians gonna get us?
Dad: Not if we get them first, son.
There were also station wagons. Lots and lots of station wagons. Kids were driven to school in station wagons, they learned to drive in station wagons, and they had their first unplanned pregnancy in station wagons. Everyone had a station wagon. It was Jalopnik heaven.
Now, the station wagon love continued through the 1970s until all those kids who spent all that time in station wagons grew up and had kids of their own. Suddenly, the realization struck them: they didn’t want to drive their kids around in the same cars that mom and dad drove. They didn’t want station wagons. They wanted something different.
Enter the minivan. The Chrysler minivan, as I recall, came out in the early 1980s, at which time it was purchased by every single family in America, all of whom wondered: Why isn’t there a door on both sides? They would also eventually wonder: “Why do I only get 20,000 miles out of each transmission?” but that came later.
Of course, the minivan was intensely popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. We all grew up in them. Some vans had wood on the sides. Some vans had rear air conditioning. Some vans had second-row captain’s chairs. And all vans had potato chip crumbs lodged between the seats.
And then something happened. All those kids who spent all that time in minivans grew up and had kids of their own. Now they didn’t want to drive the same cars their parents drove, which eliminated the minivan, and they certainly didn’t want to drive the same cars their grandparents drove, which eliminated a) station wagons, and b) General Motors.
The result, of course, was the SUV boom, and the creation of a clear automotive truth: nobody wants to drive what their parents drove. We started buying the Ford Explorer, then the Toyota 4Runner, then the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some people were so desperate for an SUV that they even bought the Oldsmobile Bravada. The minivan was effectively dead. The wagon was, too. All because no one wanted to drive the same car as their parents.
And now, here we are. The SUV fad has lasted for a while, but today’s children are starting to grow up. They’re starting to have kids of their own. Are they going to reject the SUV just because it’s what their parents drove? I certainly think so, which is why I’m predicting the SUV will die in the next ten years – just like the minivan, and the station wagon before it.
But just to be sure, I thought about my friends – nearly all of whom are recent college graduates rapidly approaching that age where they start popping out children. They’re the next generation’s automotive bellwether; the predictor of what we’ll be driving in the future; the keeper of the automotive flame. And after exhaustive study examining their tastes, I believe I have it; I can safely reveal the car of choice for the next generation. And it is… a used Honda Civic.
I think I’d rather have the minivan.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.