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In defence of SUVs

February 22, 2011

Dear Sir,

Very rarely do I feel the need to read an article and voice my opinion on the subject, let alone a Letter to the Editor. However, the rant was so ignorant that I could not resist. “Does every family need that much space in a car? They didn't when I was a kid before SUVs were here, and they certainly don't now! What possible good can these outsized vehicles do for anyone, apart from the car dealerships who sell them, the government who claws in more cash from the duty, and the owners of the island's Esso and Shell gasoline franchises, who must be laughing all the way to the bank.”

What I can tell you from experience is that I grew up in a family of five and the small cars we had in the early 80s made life generally very difficult. Everything from airport runs, birthday parties, moving (or for that matter, transporting anything), towing a boat, jet ski, horse, etc. We were completely reliant on private trucking or taxies, which can be extremely costly. Thus, we were one of the first families to purchase the Mitsubishi Space Wagon when it arrived in Bermuda … like hundreds of other people did. These vehicles were a godsend; three rows of seats, big doors, massive trunk with folding seating. It made life so much easier. Yes, car dealerships make a profit, but guess what? The BMW 1 series sells here for about $100,000 but it only costs about $15,000 in the US. So let's not start ranting about how much the dealerships are making, they are just following the simple rules of supply and demand.

If you think for one second that SUVs are the cause of morning and evening, weekday, rush hour traffic then you are mistaken. They are not “clogging” the roads any more than any other vehicle. Do you know why? Because no matter how big or small the cars are, you have every road artery converging on one roundabout servicing one main road into town (unless of course you are going back of town, in which case there is almost zero congestion). This road is littered with inefficient traffic lights, pedestrians, buses stopping along routes, motorcycles weaving in and out, cars trying to parallel park while holding up traffic … the problem is a lacklustre traffic system which results in lengthy delays, not SUVs. I won't deny that trucks flying around the road at 80kph is intimidating for everyone, which is why police need to crack down on this. In my view, outside of rush hours, there is very moderate traffic and I do not have a problem with trucks being on the road as long as they respect the fact that they are large and need to go slow enough to stay in their lane.

Fuel use: Many SUVs that are being manufactured today are just as fuel efficient as a normal car and produce similar emissions, especially compared to almost any car of five to seven years ago. Just because you have a bigger tank, does not necessarily mean you are burning fuel faster.

Parking spaces: I own an SUV so I am qualified to answer this question: parking spaces in Bermuda are plenty big enough for the current size of SUVs. If you happen to park beside one, park in the middle of your spot and you shouldn't break your back trying to get out. Would there be more space to park if everyone drove two-seat smart cars? Sure. Telling people how to spend their money and what to spend it on? There are plenty of countries that adhere to this sort of regime, maybe you should just move there? Communist China is one that comes to mind…not too many SUV's rumbling around there, that's for sure!

“We cannot widen Bermuda's roads, so please tell me where is the logic in allowing larger cars onto this island?” Again, the simple rules of supply and demand, need not go further into this.

“Why do they not ban these large cars and do something like making electric powered or hybrid cars mandatory? Of course that would be progressive, and this government has so far demonstrated clearly it is nothing but regressive in its policies.” One of your main arguments is fuel consumption and the need to not rely on foreign oil. Did you know that Bermuda relies on crude oil to power Belco? Let's look at a few reasons why more people have not turned to electric cars in the US:

1. They are not sold by many manufacturers. The Chevy Volt is in its first year of production and this is the only mainstream auto maker in the US producing such a vehicle. The knock on them is; low mileage, minimal towage and very expensive to charge the fuel cell or battery.

2. US Oil employs thousands of Americans and if one day everyone drove an electric car, the demand would not be there and a lot of people would be jobless. The US obviously can't afford this, thus they are slowly trying to wean Americans off of fuel. If you look at a place like China, which has the highest amount of electric cars per capita, both Energy and Oil are nationalised so regardless of which method people choose, the Chinese Govt makes money.

3. Law. Believe it or not, Congress (not the car companies) dictates how fuel-efficient a car can be. If you don't believe me, look it up.

So how does this all affect us in Bermuda? Well, good luck finding an electric car here to buy for starters, although they are readily available for import. Secondly, it would be an interesting case study to see if you would actually save money by not fuelling your car at the pump and instead plugging your car into Belco.

With electricity rates what they are, Belco relying on crude oil, and Bermuda already having one of the highest carbon footprints in the world (per capita) I'm not sure if your theory of electric or hybrid cars holds any water. One way or another, we will rely on oil and pump thousands of metric tons of carbon into the ozone due to transportation. Some realistic answers are; better solar use and possibly magnet related public transit. This. of course, would cost money, but hey, we are already $1 billion in debt, who's counting! (Well, I am that's for sure)

(Finally) “Let the Government show it is prepared to put the long term interest of Bermuda first, before the interest of the small amount of businesses that benefit from SUVs being here!” So after all that ranting, this is your big conclusion? You think the expulsion of maybe a few hundred SUVs are going to radically change the way we view the current administration? Let's look at this logic; SUVs cost a lot of money. People who have a lot of money in Bermuda are generally in international business. You said earlier that people who are mostly buying these cars are people with money and expats.

So if the above are considered truths, then let's follow this logic stream; international business is slowly leaving, when businesses leave, people leave, if these people own cars, their cars will be either sold or destroyed. So, if eventually Bermuda becomes a place that is not suitable to do business, and all the expats and/or people with money leave…then by my calculations and by the claims you made earlier about the people that own SUVs, there should be almost zero SUVs on the Island. And whom would we have to thank if this situation arose? The government. If this is the case, then the Government IS looking out for the long term interests of this country by driving out all the people with money so that there will be nobody left to be able to afford SUVs, thus not looking out for themselves, but for the good of our natural environment, and the pleasure of not getting stuck in traffic.



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Published March 11, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 11, 2011 at 9:19 am)

In defence of SUVs

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