As fuel prices skyrocket across the country, owners of vehicles at both ends of the fuel efficiency spectrum are making political statements simply by driving around town. On one extreme is GM’s Hummer H2, weighing in at over 6,000 pounds and guzzling gas at a rate of 10-13 miles per gallon. On the other are the compact Japanese hybrids by Toyota and Honda, which top out at a whopping 60 miles per gallon.
Maggie Shiels of Britain’s BBC News recently traveled around California interviewing Hummer and hybrid owners about their interactions with others when behind the wheel. “I have people flipping me off all the time but because I’m from New York, I get my ya-yas out that way and I get to flip ‘em back,” one Hummer owner relates to Shiels. “People like to get behind symbols and it’s scary that they get behind hating Hummers.”
Meanwhile, a hybrid owner tells Shiels the other side of the same story: “If petrol was 10 cents a gallon I would still buy a Hybrid. Guys who drive Hummers need to understand those vehicles are symbolic of what is wrong with this country.”
While this stand-off seems like a clash of fashion trends, its mere notice by British journalists signals that larger forces—Mideast oil dependence and by extension, international terrorism, to name a few—are underpinning the debate.
Not surprisingly, Ford dealers across the country are reporting long waiting lists for the much-ballyhooed Escape hybrid SUV. Indeed, maybe Americans can find some common ground after all.