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Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of SUVs

It may not be Shakespearean tragedy, but the once proud sport utility vehicle has finally fallen from grace. SUV sales are crashing, and they are getting too expensive to drive with $100 fill-ups, but you can’t get your money back in the used car market. Oh, and you better have a lock on your gas cap or thieves will siphon off your fuel.

I cannot shed a tear for SUV buyers, but I will refrain from saying “I told you so.”

The Washington Post had a lachrymose piece last week, “SUV Drivers Burned Twice: At the Pump, on the Car Lot: Some Unload Vehicles for Less Than They Owe.” They noted:

In the first three months of this year, about 900,000 SUVs were for sale at online auto market AutoTrader.com, an increase of 19 percent over the same period last year…

May saw the steepest drop yet in the price of full-size SUVs, which are now down 24 percent compared with last year, said Tom Webb, chief economist for Manheim Consulting, which tracks the used-vehicle market. Prices continued to decline in June….

Some dealerships have stopped accepting SUVs as trade-ins….

My Prius, however, has, strangely enough, retained most of its initial value — but again I won’t say “I TOLD YOU SO” in all capital letters or anything. The CIBC projects a huge drop in SUV sales (see “Must read CIBC report: $7 gas by 2010, 10 million cars off the road, 1970s style GDP growth”):

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Indeed, if you were the kind of person who actually needed an SUV — let’s say you have five kids — why would you buy a new one, when you could probably get a used one for virtually nothing?

What does make our current situation at least a little Shakespearean is that we did this to ourselves, like King Lear, Othello, and, of course, Richard II. Blame the Chinese and the Indians all you want, but this little country of ours — This Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself, Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world … this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England — with 5% of the world population, uses twice as much oil as China and India combined, who have more than six times our population.

Oh, the rare delight of reading in today’s New York Times, “American Energy Policy, Asleep at the Spigot”:

Senator Domenici, the senior New Mexico Republican … is even more critical of Detroit. “They all said to us: ‘Don’t change CAFE. It’ll come when it’s supposed to.’ That’s baloney,” he said.

UNTIL last year’s vote, Mr. Domenici was an opponent of new fuel-efficiency standards, a stance he now regards as a mistake. “We were like everybody else,” he says. “We should have been more active on CAFE sooner.”

With Detroit again seeing profits collapse as sales of big cars plunge, Mr. Domenici says he is worried about the survival of the domestic automakers.

“They talked a good research game,” he says. “But let’s face it, little was being done. They are suffering the consequences and could go broke just like the airlines.”

Must resist the urge to say “I told you so, I told you so, I told you” three times in a row, but wait, what did I read earlier in this piece….

Much of what we’re seeing today could have been prevented or ameliorated had we chosen to act differently,” says Pete V. Domenici, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a 36-year veteran of the Senate. “It was a bipartisan failure to act.”

Must stop head from exploding. Yes, Pete, if by “bipartisan failure” you mean, that conservatives blocked all sane action on fuel economy standards and cut funding for government-industry advanced research partnerships with the automakers while progressives were guilty of not being smart enough to convince you or the public of what was inevitable. Who else can we blame but the people who were right all along?

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For the sake of literary coherence, I end with another quote from Richard II — just subsitute “America” for “England”:

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,Dear for her reputation through the world,Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,Like to a tenement or pelting farm:England, bound in with the triumphant seaWhose rocky shore beats back the envious siegeOf watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:That England, that was wont to conquer others,Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.

Wow! I made it through the entire post without once saying, “I told you so,” notwithstanding the aphophasis.

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