One thing we get made fun of in the United States are the trucks. I don’t personally have anything against the guy who buys an F-150 to commute in and pick stuff up from Home Depot on the weekends. It’s nice to have a versatile vehicle that can take you to the office or haul a camper to the woods. The fact that small, efficient trucks like Ford’s Maverick or the Hyundai Santa Cruz are selling well shows us that many people really do want the functionality and not just the looks.
But, as most know, truck owners aren’t all like that. We have plenty of people who buy a giant truck and then never use it for truck stuff. They’ll put a large truck on top of a giant lifted suspension, put tires on it almost as big as a monster truck, and then never take it off pavement. Some people even try to make them look like a semi-truck by redirecting the sooty black exhaust out of a giant pipe or two at the front of the truck bed. And, then there are the flags on these squeaky-clean trucks that probably couldn’t tow a trailer:
Many small businessmen go this direction with their vehicles. The idea isn’t that they need the truck to do the job. Often a modest truck like a Ranger or F-150 would do the job, but having the largest truck with the longest bed on the biggest lift is meant to impress their customers and make them think that they must be pretty good at the job or they wouldn’t have so much money. Never mind that the truck is on a 120-month payment that they won’t be able to make come next recession, but today’s customers don’t know that.
Things are changing, but they won’t change by much for some people. Take the Hummer EV for example (yeah, I know GM is tired of us ripping on it). Yes, it’s cleaner than the vehicle it’s probably replacing, but it’s unlikely to ever be cleaner than something like an F-150, even burning gasoline. It’ll still be a 9,000-pound flex for people who want to consume conspicuously without paying $5 for gas.
The European Alternatives We Love To Hate…
Yeah, I know. America doesn’t want to import every fashionable idea from Europe. We don’t want the metric system. We don’t want strict gun control laws or single-payer healthcare enough for those things to pass in congress. If we wanted to be Europeans, we wouldn’t have kicked European leaders out in the 1770s and then did it again in 1812 for good measure. Battery Park wasn’t named after energy storage devices, after all.
But, that doesn’t mean we hate all things European. Many Americans love European sports cars, for example. Men flex their fine European watches, too. Plus, we didn’t just watch and laugh while Hitler and the Nazis took everything over (at least not after Pearl Harbor). My grandfather froze his feet and could never walk right helping Europeans with that fascism problem, and he never regretted volunteering at 17 to go do that.
The trick is that we have to make something from Europe look cool to get it to catch on in the States. Shooting Nazis with the big guns on the top of a half-track is cool. Driving a BMW is cool. Carrying a SIG Sauer is cool. You know what’s not cool? The Smart Fortwo (even Mercedes-Benz can’t use capital letters for that), or a Yugo. You’ll get made fun of for driving that.
…Until We’re Paying European Gas Prices
But, attitudes can change fast when gas prices go insane. Yeah, I know people outside the US have had expensive fuel for a long time, which is probably why they tend to have more efficient vehicles than we do. I have a family member who normally drives (and often actually uses) a diesel one-ton dually. When I recommended he look into a Maverick for those trips that don’t require hauling a big trailer with a tractor on it, the guy at the local Ford dealer actually laughed at him.
“We don’t have those right now, and we can’t get you one.”
Now, he’s actively shopping for Chevy Bolt EVs (like I am), and neither of us can get one of those, either. All of the affordable options that don’t put a giant dent in your wallet and inspire lamentations at the gas pump just can’t be found right now.
The US automotive industry just wasn’t prepared to serve the needs people have at current gas price levels, while their European counterparts have been doing this for a long time.
Something Like The Opel Vivaro-e Would Be A Good Option Today
Seeing people who use their truck to work for a living struggle really sucks. They’re not bad people. Many of them want something better. But, the market just hasn’t been supplying better alternatives at volume.
When I came across this European work van, I saw how perfect it could be for so many people if something like it were offered in the US:
It looks reasonably roomy in the cab, and it has an extremely versatile bed. Put the sides up to carry small things. Fold the sides down to carry huge things. Swap the sides out for taller sides to haul loose things, like landscaping tools. Switch the whole bed out for something with a bunch of space for tools and material for just about any job out there.
It’s got the specs, too. It has a 75 kWh pack that can charge at up to 100 kW, which is enough for most work vehicles that stay local or regional. Range is just over 200 miles WLTP, which still means probably 175 miles EPA, which means even lead-footed people will get 150 miles out of it even on the highway.
It’s no speed demon, but it’s no slouch, either. It’s got 136 horsepower and almost 200 lb ft of torque (better than many four-cylinder work trucks people used to buy in the 90s). So, it’s perfectly useable and probably even a little enjoyable when you consider that the torque is instant from zero RPM instead of having to wait for the little engine to wind itself up.
If you’re from Stellantis and you’re reading this, you should really consider doing something like this for the States. Many, many people would buy one right now. Just be sure to leave a little space behind the seat for our “truck guns.”
Featured image by Stellantis.
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