Friday, May 23, 2008

Evidence of intelligent life!

I've been kind of stymied for a post for a couple days; the one I promised "next" requires some brain power to put together; and I haven't had any brains for several days.  Mostly tired from pushing various urgent icebergs right on the farm.

But I just happened across this bit of news, and it cheered me up so much I had to share it.

"SUVs Become Endangered Species" - according to CNN.

Apparently, the "American consumer" has actually changed directions; dealers are almost unable to give SUVs away now.  "Small cars are gone within a week; SUVs are sitting here since last summer."  And, "For the first four months of this year, truck and SUV sales are down a collective 24.8 percent. SUV sales plummeted 32.8 percent while pickups dipped 19.9 percent..."

The article has something for everyone - if you just want to cheer signs of intelligence, there's plenty; if you're into "schadenfreude" - well, there's an abundance of potential for that, too.

Turns out lots of people bought $40k machines- still owe about $20k or so- but the book value of their perfectly good SUV is now about $12k.  If you can sell it.   " 'The cars are literally just sitting, and it doesn't matter how much you sell them for,' Fernandez says of the SUVs and trucks nobody wants anymore. 'It's amazing. I've never seen it this bad -- ever.' "

So people who blithely bought big "Suck Uglies", as I called them; ignoring those of us who pointed out it made no sense at all- can't even sell them and switch to a smaller car to save the gas money.  They'll save hundreds of dollars in gas- and lose thousands of dollars on the swap.

Ok, it's hard not to do a little gleeful dance and sing "toldjaso, toldjaso!"

I remember making long, logical, eloquent arguments- completely ignored, of course- that virtually no one in North America actually needed an SUV.  Lots of people wanted them.  But until they looked in their bank account, and found it empty- they really didn't understand that "want" is not the same as "need".

Here perhaps is the first large public reminder of that for the US.  There will be more in the days ahead, to be sure.  Most of them are not going to be fun, of course.  Maybe we should enjoy this one, while we can.

"Want" is not the same as "need".  It's only spoiled children who think they're the same.  That's an uncomfortable truth; but one we're going to have to swallow, and live with, every day.


Hm.  Actually.  I COULD use a nice comfy SUV - on the farm.   We do a lot of pottering around; harvesting, taking data, in all kinds of weather.  Would be nice to have a machine with a good heater that didn't leak rain and snow.

Tell ya what- any of you out there own an SUV you want to get rid of?  I'll take it off your hands- for just $500.   

You pay me.

By gosh, CNN is just becoming a fount for enlightenment.  Apparently the financial community has just discovered that there may not be a lot of oil left out there.  Who'da thunk??  The analysis isn't finished yet though.  Maybe we'll luck out.  :-)


Anonymous said...

Food for thought. I'm not being snide or snarky. I really am interested in answers because you might give me ideas. If I don't need my SUV how will I deliver produce to restaurants and inn? How will I pick up 12 bales of mulch hay for the walls of a new compost bin later today without my Blazer?

Greenpa said...

Seasonseatings- sorry about that. I am, of course, aware that there are plenty of good people stuck here, and it's not fun for you; nor me, really.

Full disclosure- I own a 1-ton Ford van. Bought for haulage and large deliveries. Probably only put 1,000 miles a year on it, though. So I know.

Here's the thing- the analysis of the financial "experts" (an obvious oxymoron at this point?) is flawed, I think. They don't want people to sell their big trucks and "lose" that value.

But, I think the value is already gone. The fact that you owe $20k on it does not mean that value actually exists. It doesn't.

So, your real options are;

1) keep the SUV; keep paying for something imaginary (value) - AND keep paying for the huge gas consumption. $$ + $$

2) sell the SUV for whatever you can get (which may leave you owing money on it) - buy an older vehicle with a much smaller motor - and pay less for gas. $+$+$

3) If the person you owe money to for the SUV is a scumbag slick operator you already hate- default on the SUV and give it back. Supposedly, this will hurt your credit, they scream. Ha. Everybody on the planet has bad credit right now, and it doesn't stop you from doing things- particularly if you have a reasonable explanation for what happened. (Credit companies need to do business. Right now "the dog ate my homework" is a perfectly good excuse for them to restore your standing. I have reason to know.) Buy an older machine.. etc. I think the price here will be similar to #2; but the personal satisfaction might be greater. $+$+$

3) if you have an SUV with a good body and transmission- and somebody in your circle with mechanical skills- rip the engine out, and put in a much smaller, older one. Or a diesel, if you can put your hands on one. That might be $+$

It's going to be expensive, no matter what. I'm sure there's a #4 and #5; but you get the idea.

A big part of the reason you're in this fix is that the auto companies did not MAKE the vehicle you needed, back when you bought it. (Of course, the if only thoughts in your head when you bought it were "ooh, big, shiny!", then yeah, some of this is your fault, too.)

You (we) need a good, efficient, work truck. On the advice of the "marketing experts" (many of whom haven't a clue about long term processes, but just made their living by telling customers what they wanted to hear) the auto companies "knew" that there was no "market" for efficiency. They, primarily, are the idiots I'm feeling a little gleeful about- but of course, they all have golden parachutes; and we don't.

Gallows humor all around.

DC said...

Thanks, Greenpa.

I know someone who had an expensive car he couldn't make the payments on anymore, and he couldn't sell the car for anything close to it's bluebook value. So, he took the car to a high crime area of the city and left it there overnight -- with the keys in it, the motor running, and the doors open. The next morning, it was gone of course. He filed an insurance claim and received the full retail value of the car.

Now, I do NOT recommend that anyone do this -- it's against the law and extremely stupid. My reason for telling it was that it made me think of a good idea for a SNL skit: A bunch of upper middle class people from the suburbs want to get rid of their gas hog SUVs but can't. So they leave them where they think they will get stolen, but nobody even wants to steal them. The car thieves all pass them by, citing falling demand for these types of vehicles. The thieves then go on to steal someone's rusted out 1989 Geo Metro (that gets 49 MPG).

Lisa Zahn said...

There's an article in the latest Countryside magazine by an organic produce farmer who bought some little hatchback with great gas mileage to make her weekly 120-mile round-trip of restaurant and inn deliveries. I bet some hatchbacks have as much room in the back as an SUV. Also, what about a smaller car with a small trailer to do your deliveries and mulch pick-up with? That way when you're not delivering or picking up something, you just use the little car to drive around in.

I think we can get a little creative here...

Lisa in Central MN

Greenpa said...

Lisa Z- indeed! I'm embarrassed I didn't mention the trailer, since I've long thought of getting one myself. You can even build a good trailer, without too much trouble, and get just what you need. Option 6!

Anonymous said... the first poster said"good riddence"

Anna M said...

Yes, I hear the SUV hate loud and clear every day that I actually use mine. I paid cash for a used suburban, it's 14 years old and I get 18 MPG while I'm hauling a load of whatever. I fill it up every 5-6 weeks since I combine trips and walk plus the insurance is only $150 a year.

I'd love a much smaller vehicle but honestly I figure it won't be much longer before I won't be able to afford any vehicle so I'll just drive this one two days a week (that's all we need to drive it) and by then maybe I can afford a mule.

Chile said...

Our vehicle* is bigger than we'd like, but we bought it at a time we needed the ability to haul stuff. We don't do that as much now, but it's paid off. Not worth much resale (especially with the big dent from the uninsured scumbag). So, we keep it tuned up to get the best mileage possible, and use it as little as possible. We're starting to consider a scooter for times when bicycling is impractical (distance, heat) but the vehicle is overkill.

*Not an SUV; gets better mileage, too.

Lisa Zahn said...

The fact is, a lot of us have had bigger cars than we *needed* if you really think about it. It used to be easy to justify it. We drove a small mini-van for years with just two small kids. It got 20 miles to the gallon, each kid had their own bench which was comfy and cut down on fighting, and we could haul our small sailboat easily with it. As soon as gas hit $2(!) and looked here to stay, though, we re-thought these "needs" and are now happily driving a 2004 Honda Civic that gets 30-35 mpg, cost the same as the 2001 mini-van (we buy slightly used cars only), and the kids don't fight too much in the backseat! We're all perfectly comfortable in it. When we need to haul something (we do a lot of gardening), we borrow a pickup from the neighbor. We're lucky to have that option; if we didn't, we'd get a small trailer.

I'm just thinking we're all going to be re-thinking the big car thing, if we aren't already. Using the term SUV is hard, since just about everyone I know has one, but it's just a term to say "big car/truck with bad mileage", I think. I know it sounds judgemental but I hope we can get away from that. We're all in the same boat, really.

Sal Bro said...

I know this isn't practical for people who need to use a truck frequently, but I rent a large pickup from Uhaul when I need to haul something that's too big for a car. It costs $20 + $0.50/mi + gas for 24 hrs. Even if you have to get it once or twice a month, it may still be cheaper than buying one's own pickup, depending on how the math works out.

Gina said...

Ok, I'm laughing because this weekend I actually saw a guy writing on a windshield of a SUV parked by the road. Guess how much for a fairly good lookin' vehicle? Yep, $500!!!!

Lee said...

*still laughing on the SUV news*

That's made me smile more than just about anything all week. I hate those rotten things!

Maybe we can encase one in plastic and stick it in the 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' museum as a stupidity display?