"Led by the new gas-guzzling black SUVs in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motorcade, the federal government nearly doubled the amount it spent on sport-utility vehicles during the first full year of the Conservative government."
So screams the opener to this news story (HT to Steve V). More than one blogger has seized on this as another reason to bash the Harper government. Now I hate the S.O.B. running our country, but for this one I ain't gonna join the pile-on. (And the fact that its bureaucrats that decide what vehicles to purchase, not PMs and cabinet ministers, so my ire would be misdirected.)
I'll give you a list. Pick the most fuel efficient vehicle from the following 3 (all 2006 model years, with base 6 cyl option).
a) Chrysler 300
b) Saturn Vue
c) Toyota Camry
Answer: A) with B) a very close second. The gas guzzler in this list? The Toyota Camry. Suprising huh? (I've driven all 3 many kms and own option b)
If the government had purchased 100 Camry's as the official car, we wouldn't hear one word of complaint and probably someone would congratulate them on their green purchase.
My point? Gas-guzzler and SUV do not always belong together. Conversely, just because it is Japanese or a car doesn't mean its efficient either. This is the new language we don't say SUV, we say "gas guzzing SUV", but does anyone look at the stats before rendering judgement? Nope.
This story really highlights this point. Two sentences taken together: "more than one-third of the SUVs purchased had gas-electric hybrid engines" and "(The official list of SUVs) includes larger vehicles such as the Chevrolet Suburban, the Ford Expedition, the GMC Yukon, as well as smaller four-wheel-drive SUVs such as the Saturn Vue, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4."
The category SUV includes many cross-over vehicles that are more sedan than truck. Some are very fuel efficient, and when you factor in carrying capacity and towing capability some are very impressive indeed. Which is my last point. Before any judgment can be passed on the vehicle selection we need to know what vehicles were purchased and what were the needs for these vehicles.