Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Hummer is dead. Are we better off?

The last Hummer left the production line today in Louisiana. This unfortunately puts 200 more autoworkers out of work as well as forces the anti-SUV crowd to find a new boogieman. In India, the Tata Nano is being blamed for the coming degradation of their cities. These two seemingly unrelated events are quite revealing, actually. I think Hummers are dumb vehicles, but they aren't any worse than other large SUVs. The real problem is when societies go from few cars to a lot of cars. When that happens, then land uses and local economies get restructured, and those are extremely hard to reverse if and when things go badly. Consider that for all of the good and bad vibes for the Hummer, the entire run of the H2 and H3 was less than 10 years. The US is only very marginally worse off because of that car--probably not enough to measure. Indian cities, however, will be much worse off if the Nano takes hold. So now that one of the largest boogiemen is dead, I suggest turning attention to the smallest and cheapest.
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