Yuppie Four-wheel Drives by bsw17644


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                                            in a Range Rover or Discovery. During       and would spend all but a week of it vis-

      Yuppie                                the week the husband would drive the
                                            Porsche to work while the wife dropped
                                                                                        iting relatives. None of that mattered to
                                                                                        buyers...What counted was the fantasy

    Four-wheel                              the kids off at the private school in
                                            the Land Rover; the Discovery was
                                                                                        of what they might want to do during
                                                                                        a vacation, and the ability to show their

      Drives                                perceived to be upmarket, practical and
                                            a safe way to move families around at
                                            a time when many popular cars were
                                                                                        friends and other motorists that they
                                                                                        really were the bold people that they
                                                                                        liked to see themselves as.”
  They’re an environmental and              deathtraps. As yuppie four-wheel drives
   safety nightmare, and their              gained a largely undeserved reputation          In other words, they had once aimed
       days are numbered.                   for safety, their use spread throughout     for the moon, but now they were set-
                                            the Western world, until they became        tling for a lunar theme park.
                                            the fastest growing segment in virtually
                                            all sections of the luxury car market.          The fuel crisis of the late 1970s was

        orty years ago, four-wheel drives                                               over by the early 1980s, but America’s
        were for farmers, soldiers,             The original yuppie four-wheel          car manufacturers had largely stopped
        hunters and the odd explorer.       drives were genuine offroad vehicles        building the big gas-guzzlers because
They were listed in most car guides         designed for the rich. It was up to         no one had wanted them a couple of
as commercial vehicles, along with          America to take the craze into the          years earlier while the price of petrol
pickup trucks and goods vans. The           mainstream.                                 was still high. Therefore, as fuel prices
sight of a four-wheel drive on main                                                     dropped again, there were plenty of
street simply meant that Farmer Brown           The 1980s were a manic era that         buyers for mid-sized American station
had come to town for the day.               began with depression and ended with        wagons but few sellers. Although Jeep
                                            a hangover. The 1970s were over and         never expected the Cherokee to become
    Two things changed all that. The        it was no longer fashionable to seek        a yuppie four-wheel drive, they did see
1970 release of the Range Rover saw         your full potential as a human being        a market for an offroad vehicle that
the birth of a new form of transport:       outside the mainstream. People who          would appeal to middle class customers
suddenly a small, select few could tow      lived in characterless suburbs and          who also had city lives. The basic clues
the horse float up the muddy road while     worked in offices still wanted to be        as to how to achieve such a vehicle
they rode up front in luxury. And the       cool, however.                              were already there on the Range Rover,
Range Rover wasn’t just good looking,                                                   so the Cherokee was given four doors
it was class-leading when it came to             The American yuppie four-wheel         (most offroaders had two, which limited
the rugged offroad stuff. This gave it      drive is a hybrid of the Range Rover and    their use for families) a passably car-like
credibility with both the motoring          the redneck pickup truck. As detailed       interior, and even unheard-of features
press and the gentlemen farmers who         in the book High & Mighty, Ford’s           like power steering. It was an immediate
bought them. It took a while, but the       researchers discovered that four-wheel      hit with middle class families.
motoring world gradually cottoned on        drives: “offered the promise of unfet-
to the idea that the Range Rover wasn’t     tered freedom to drive anywhere during          Ford soon followed with the
just a fad.                                 vacations. These customers might have       Explorer, which was first proposed by
                                            given up their childhood dreams of          Range Rover owner Edsel Ford II, but
     As the stockmarket boomed in the       becoming firefighters, police officers or   initially rejected as having too limited
1980s, Mitsubishi put out the Pajero/       superheroes, and had instead become         potential. After the Cherokee’s wildfire
Shogun, which alarmed Land Rover            parents with desk jobs and oversized        success, however, Ford rushed the
enough to prompt the quick release          mortgages. But they told Ford research-     pickup-truck-based Explorer to the
of the Land Rover Discovery in 1989.        ers that [offroaders] made them feel like   market. Unrestrained by the safety and
The Discovery was a hit with the British    they were still carefree, adventurous       fuel regulations governing passenger
army, explorers and farmers alike, but it   spirits who could drop everything and       vehicles, the Explorer was both cheap
also made a big impact on young urban       head for the great outdoors at a mo-        to build and extremely profitable.
professionals (yups for short) on both      ment’s notice if they really wanted to
sides of the Atlantic, the brash young      do so...These buyers knew that most            There was another twist to the
men and women of the stockmarket            people going to national parks and          saga. After Jeep lost a longstanding
boom who quickly became known as            other wilderness areas had no need for      contract with the US army in the early
yuppies.                                    four-wheel drive, and that park rangers     1980s, Jeep’s management were looking
                                            discouraged offroad driving in most         around for new customers, but there
   Soon many young English (and a           places anyway. The buyers knew per-         were doubts that the public would buy
few American) stockbrokers’ families        fectly well that they probably had only     such a vehicle in sufficient numbers
were driving to the weekend cottage         two or three weeks of vacation a year,      to make fullscale civilian production

     worthwhile. However, the marketing          appeal to the Arnold Schwarzenegger          inevitably doomed. America, still the
     whizzkids did a deal with jeanmaker         in us all. The granddaddy of them all        world’s largest market for vehicles,
     Wrangler, the new Jeep Wrangler             was the now-discontinued Hummer              is running record deficits, and few
     became trendy, and the rest, as they        H1, three tonnes of pseudo-military          people expect this situation to improve
     say, is history. With the teenagers of      vehicle, which appeals, according to         soon.
     America buying (and often rolling)          one of H ummer’s salesmen, as: “a
     Wranglers in huge numbers, there            vehicle for people who like to make a            The price of oil has made the larger
     was little incentive to improve the         statement.”                                  yuppie four-wheel drives uneconomic
     vehicle, so the Wrangler was left largely                                                for the average motorist. With more
     untouched till the late 1990s and has           The Hummer’s basic statement is          and more of the world’s automotive
     remained in its own evolutionary blind      “fuck you”. Hummer’s own market              factories irrevocably geared towards
     alley to this day.                          research shows that the typical Hummer       four-wheel drive production, a head-on
                                                 buyer is vain, insecure, self-centred and    collision between supply and demand
         The Germans came late, but they         has little concern for the consequences      was inevitable.
     aimed far higher up the food chain with     of his or her actions on others. The
     the BMW X5 & Mercedes M-Class.              overall yuppie four-wheel drive attitude         In place of the larger models, car
                                                 to safety is also “fuck you”. The basic      manufacturers are now selling more
         The original yuppie four-wheel          idea is “I’m bigger than you, so if we       pretend offroaders like the Honda CRV,
     drives were largely the domain of the       have a scrap, you’re going to come out       but even those models are likely to go
     rich, and the object of quite a bit of      second best.” Not true, unfortunately.       out of fashion before too much longer.
     envy & amusement – after all, the           Although a yuppie four-wheel drive’s         No fashion trend lasts forever, and too
     nearest they got to going offroad           massive bulk ensures that it will be the     many people have seen the movie An
     was when they were parked on the            winner in a simple head-on collision         Inconvenient Truth •
     pavement outside the private school         with a smaller vehicle, that’s often not
     waiting for the kids.                       what happens in the real world. First,
                                                 yuppie four-wheel drives are far more
         Now every major passenger vehicle       likely to roll than the average vehicle,
     manufacturer is earning a significant       and when they roll the occupants often
     percentage of its total income selling      aren’t wearing seatbelts, because they
     offroad or pseudo-offroad vehicles          don’t think they need them.
     that are all clones of one or more of
     the models above. But designing a new           Second, because they are so bulky,
     model costs money and takes time, so        they are harder to handle, so they are far
     carmakers, rushing to cash in on the        more likely to be in an accident. Hitting
     offroad lunacy, have simply raised the      a bridge or tree in a yuppie four-wheel
     suspension of ordinary passenger cars       drive can be just as hazardous to the
     like the Honda Civic, added imitation       occupants as if they were in a normal
     four-wheel drive and re-issued them         car. Sometimes it can be worse.
     as pseudo-offroaders (in this case, the
     CRV). The common term for this type             As an investment, upmarket yuppie
     of vehicle is ‘softroader’, because it’s    four-wheel drives are appalling – they
     simply not designed for real offroad        often plummet in value, and they
     use. Every sector of the passenger car      tend to be on the less-reliable end
     market has been transformed by the          of the market. Repair prices for the
     yuppie four-wheel drive, even the mini      more expensive models are typically
     car sector, with makers like Daihatsu       at the luxury car end of the scale. Fuel
     issuing ‘puppy four-wheel drives’ –         economy is invariably appalling also. A
     tiny passenger cars in offroad clothes      Model T Ford gives better fuel economy
     trying to gain credibility through a        than the average American four-wheel
     vague resemblance to more upmarket          drive. When you get millions of vehicles
     models.                                     giving poor fuel economy, you need to
                                                 secure ever greater amounts of fossil
          The typically rugged genuine four-     fuels to run them, which may well
     wheel drive is now almost a dying breed,    mean going to war to secure a steady
     replaced by a sea of vehicles aimed at      flow of oil.
     everybody from the very rich to the very
     poor, but having in common that they            The four-wheel drive craze was


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