The other day, I was driving home from work in my Chevy Volt when I spied, just a few cars ahead of me, the familiar and nostalgic curves of the C3 Corvette. The delightful buckskin paint job had a genuine patina one simply does not find on a modern vehicle. Using my car’s disturbingly good acceleration, I snuck in between some shmucks and managed to stop half a length behind and to the left of it at a stoplight. I rolled down the passenger window, which aligned with the car’s rear wheels.
Sure, this one was clearly just a ’76 or ’77 given the color, badging, and bumper shapes, but it was beautiful. Upon opening the window, I expected the familiar sound of an old engine and the majestic scent of incomplete combustion of gasoline.
Instead I got a lungful of diesel fumes and the ‘glug glug glug’ of a pickup.
This truck was part of an infection in this country: luxury trucks.
Let me rant a bit more on why this needs to stop. It’s going to be very long.
Ruggedness and Bullshit
A while back, we had this thing called “Luxury Sedans.” These were cars that had no other purpose than to be loud, plush, and screech “I pay people to do stuff for me.” You put out your cigarettes in the built in ash trays, slid around on the leather, and stretched out within a steel cage.
The image of “I have people for that”, however, no longer jives with what (white) Americans wish to convey about themselves.1 Rather than implying that they’ve made it to the next eschelon in society, there’s a bit of the zeitgeist to seem like an “every man”, like the relatable salt of the earth. Rather than seeming a manicured, well-to-do rich guy in charge, people want to be seen as a go-getter and hard worker. It’s why George H.W. Bush had a campaign that was very straightlaced and George W. Bush, despite being the fucking child of high-class H.W., decided to style himself as a cowboy in his campaigns.2 At some point we decided that independently wealthy wasn’t what we wanted to be seen as.
That’s why people buy trucks. It’s not because they need them to do physical work. It’s because they want other people to believe the dirt under their purposefully untrimmed nails isn’t from lack of washing – they want you to believe they worked. They want you to believe they’re just like you, but then do so in comfort and more richly. It’s a way to be relatable and still have the Luxury Sedan effect.
And it’s stupid.
Most people who drive the new Luxury Trucks don’t have this work to be done. The trucks drive on interstates with empty beds and empty promises, fulfilling the pipe dreams of the misled.
Making Trucks Too Expensive for Folks Who Need Them
While people spew clouds of diesel by attempting to accelerate a truck in ways that simply don’t work, there are definitely, definitely other people who need trucks to do their jobs. Farmers need to haul equipment from place to place, especially where there aren’t well-worn and paved roads. Same with construction workers, landscapers, and countless others who need the space of a pickup but not the space of a tractor trailer. Some people live in areas where they need the high ground clearance of a truck (or SUV, I guess, but that’d be a different rant) just to get to their houses.
But do you know what happens when you make an item a luxury?
It becomes a fucking luxury.
The people who need these trucks in order to perform their jobs must now pay the useless “luxury tax” that workers of the past didn’t have to. Instead of buying a functional piece of equipment with low markup and no excess add-ons, everyone now has to get high-end, luxury equipment or buy something that’s so old it’s almost not fit for purpose.
I’m reading sketchy websites that say an entry level truck (an F-150 or a C10, no add-ons) in 1980 for $5-7k. The average vehicle cost $7k at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $22k. Now? You can come in entry at $28,000 with an F-150, which pretty badly outstrips the inflation.3 You could spend $80k for a top-end GMC Sierra Denali 3500HD with Duramax diesel, and it’s that end of the cars – the high end – that’s driving the ever-rising cost of trucks. Low end trucks are like the new pony cars: status symbols for people who can’t afford status symbols.
Are you going to haul a bed full of gravel in your $70k truck? No, that’s like a year’s income for a household. You’re going to treat that like your grandpa treated his Cadillac Eldorado, except it’s stupider because a truck is there to pretend it’s working whereas the Eldorado never lied about what it’s there for.
Making Everything More Expensive for Everyone
A farmer’s old Custom Deluxe truck breaks down, and they need to purchase something else. Entry level trucks don’t exactly litter the lots anymore, so they end up buying a “reasonable” vehicle for $35k. However, they have to pay for this somehow, and they need to sell their crop for more. Enough other farmers are in the same boat, and the overall price of food increases for the middleman, and then for you.
It was an avoidable problem. If truck prices hadn’t risen in stupid proportion compared to cars, workers wouldn’t have capital costs so much higher than they used to be. It’s actual nonsense. By buying a truck and treating it like a luxury sedan, we’re further paying out the ass in literally every other way.
So when you’re running a business, you have a much steeper slope to climb when you’re having to consider the purchase of a new work vehicle. “Hire a new employee, or get a new truck?” becomes a real and almost equivalent cost.
Taking Dumps on the Environment for No Reason
I started this with a story about diesel fumes to the face when I expected something rarer and more precious. However, there’s also another type of rare and precious breath: our planet’s air at all. People4 are not eating meat in effort to reduce emissions, but that’s comparatively drastic compared to “drive a car that makes even a modicum more sense for my needs.” Barreling down the road at 85 mph in your heavy-ass, highly wind-resistant truck that SHOULD BE DESIGNED FOR TORQUE MORESO THAN SPEED is just burning gas for no reason.
If you want to burn gas for no reason in an expensive car, at least do yourself a favor and get a C3 Corvette.
1 I’ll admit I don’t know what people of color want out of vehicles.
2 Don’t ask me to explain Trump, though, because I still don’t understand his and his team’s political strategy.
3 Some people say you can get cheaper trucks, but I’m lazy enough and not going to look further. The trucks I’m comparing to from the 1980 sale price are the F-150s and the CK -> Silverado type lines. It’s probably like the Ranger or the Canyon or something that might be cheaper, but those aren’t the 1/2 ton pickups I’m comparing everything with.
4 I said I drive the Volt, so you should have expected this sort of bullshit from me.