Monday, January 17, 2005

More Class War than 4x4

Yesterdays Times reported how UK activists have been stepping up their protests against 4x4s (or SUVs as they are better known in the US). Although their tactics have so far been limited to cheap publicity stunts such as sticking fake parking tickets on windscreens, it is only a matter of time till the protests become violent. The activists believe that driving an SUV should attract the same social stigma as wearing a fur coat.

Elected officials have now have backed the cause. "Red" Ken Livingstone (who describes their owners as "idiots") has threatened to raise the congestion charge for them, and the Liberal Democrats want to tax them out of existence. Like fox hunting, this has very little to do with the planet and everything to do with class war. Old cars pollute and consume more petrol (my Proton 1.6 only does about 23mpg around town), people movers (or MPVs as they are known in the US) and luxury cars often take up more road space, and to cap it all SUVs are often safer.

Take Honda for example, the European New Car Assessment Programme rates its CR-V as among the safest 10% of vehicles in pedestrian crash tests, according to its independent safety standards. And lets face it, you're more likely to walk away from an accident in an SUV than if you are driving one of those matchbox sized cars the protestors would like you to drive. Being 6 foot 3, I can't fit in them anyway.

Protestors hate SUVs because of what they represent, a status symbol. They are not only a symbol of conspicuous wealth, but their owners sit well above the rest of us and we feel small (or we feel like buying an SUV!). When the UK protestors eventually adopt violent tactics, which they will, Ken Livingstone, the Lib Dems and all the others who have egged them on will be responsible. They have given legitamacy to the notion that SUV owners are criminals, and having failed to reverse what is a growing trend, will leave the protestors with no option but to take direct action.