We saw it happen with Detroit's first go-round of turning off-the-shelf hardware into a mighty moneymaking machine: the muscle car. Now the original muscle cars are objects of worship. Will SUVs follow the same path?
When Detroit figured out that adding a big engine and some macho gingerbread to a cheapo midsize sedan could jack up profits at minimal expense back in the 1960s, the muscle car was born. There was quite a hood-scooped, large-displacement, tape-striped, drag-race-themed party on America's streets for nearly ten years, until mean ol' Arabs and wet-blanket insurance companies choked off the fun. Since that time, the muscle car has come to symbolize everything that was once right about a postwar America that never really existed; not the 1960s of race riots, political assassinations, and quagmire wars against enemies who didn't know the rules of warfare, but a 1960s when American men stood omnipotent against the raging manure-tides of political correctness, shrinking resource pools, and generally diminished expectations (also, and possibly more importantly, a time when Baby Boomer men still had all their hair). Worshiping the original generation of muscle cars is like sticking a big middle finger in Dean Wormer's face!
In the early 1990s, Detroit figured out the magical money-printing formula again: take big, body-on-frame trucks- most of which used chassis whose development costs were covered many years before, and which were sliding through regulatory loopholes created by various taxes and tariffs - and pile on luxury features and class-by-the-pound gingerbread. Bam! Instant free money! Not only that, the same tedious killjoys who'd hurled a piss-soaked blanket onto the muscle car party 20 years earlier were equally horrified by the sport utility vehicle. America was kicking ass again! Just ask those poor Iraqis, trying to find reverse in an obsolete Soviet tank! The SUV meant independence; independence from paved roads, emasculating mollycoddling liberals of all stripes, and- best of all- independence from hauling the family around in the dreaded minivan!
So, given that the SUV has so much in common with the original muscle cars, will we see the exact same sort of totemic power from them in a decade or three? Nirvana songs cranking on the PA at the SUV show, as gnarled old dudes sit on their ice chests and gripe about the conspiracies that put Americans behind the joysticksl of namby-pamby electric-powered nanotech transportation pods (that get 200 MPG and hit 0-60 in 1.8 seconds)? Or will all SUVs get lumped in with the Aztek?
Image source: NetCarShow