“Feeling” is a general sensation, a state of consciousness, or a vague awareness, and “fact” is being real, or something known to exist. These are the two guiding principles one has to bear in mind, when one decides to buy a car. According to Malcolm Gladwell, S.U.V.s represents the “feeling” and Compact Cars represent the “fact”. When “Big and Bad” Malcolm Gladwell says so, we have reason to believe it, because his comments are based on the sound knowledge.
S.U.V.s created sensation in the 1990s. Customers liked S.U.V.s’ elevated driving position. They said the elevated position helped them easily see things around. Sport-utility owners felt they were safer when they drove the big vehicles. S.U.V.s gave its owners a never before feeling, “How people viewed” them. The “High and Mighty” feeling followed the much perceived comfort. Feedbacks from selected focus groups gave S.U.V manufacturers needed extra confidence to say that the S.U.V.s’ success was due to its technical merits.

Malcolm explains his experience at the automobile-testing center where he witnessed testing a Chevrolet TrailBlazer and a two-seater Porche Boxster. The test was done by an ace British test-driver, David Champion, who had been an engineer with Land Rover and Nissan. After driving the TrailBlazer, Champion commented, “It is a bit billowy, side to side, cumbersome, and a little bit heavy”. It accelerates heavily, and does not feel that secure. During the accident avoidance evaluation, he felt the road somehow remote. At forty miles per hour the vehicle’s tires squealed, as the driver took a turn to the left. The same noise repeated, when he turned the car to the right. The test drive was not very successful. Champion said that he was not getting much communication back from the steering wheel. He felt a little bit of tail swing. It slid a lot. At forty miles per hour, the car was not going where the driver wanted it to go, the tires were protesting, and the driver felt the weight pulling him sideways. After a sudden diversion, the car pulled him in the wrong direction.

Next, there was the Boxster, a car low to the ground. Although it gave a feeling that one was sitting in a go-cart, while driving, the driver felt he was in the perfect control. At forty-five miles per hour, the Boxster perfectly stayed level. At fifty miles per hour, during the left and right turns, the tires did not make any squeal. The test driver, Champion exclaimed, “Walk in the park”. Most people think that the S.U.V.s is safer than sports cars, because it feels the chances of surviving a collision in an S.U.V. are greater than in a compact car. However, what most people forget is that a compact car has fewer chances for a head on collision, because of their maneuverability. In practice, if TrailBlazer has passive safety, the Boxster boasts of the active safety (Archive)

The basic truth is that the S.U.V.s’ records in accidents are worse than of their counterparts, a fact that has not gone into rational calculation on safety. According to a French anthropologist, who is a specialist in going beyond rational, concluded that it has gone into the unconscious mind of the buyers that, if they are surrounded by everything round and soft, they are safe and secure. The feeling that one is safe and secure, if one’s vehicle is bigger and taller, does not go with rational thinking. They do not realize that the height of these vehicles makes them vulnerable to roll over (Gladwell)

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Statistics show that the biggest or the heaviest vehicles had not been better performers on the road, whereas midsized cars have been so. It is a fact that in a head-on collision, a bigger car would crush a smaller one, but the smaller car could always find ways to avoid a collision. This is a greater benefit to being small. Malcolm’s experience with the brakes of the S.U.V., TrailBlazer, had not been a pleasant one. The five thousand pound weighing vehicle struggled to halt on emergency-stopping tests. It made a lot of protesting, lurching and screeching before it stopped. On an average, when the TrailBlazer took 150+ feet to stop, the compact Boxster took only about 124 feet. Although, this difference is only about two car lengths, it spells between life and death (stoc).

In their reference to Malcolm’s article, PUTA (Public Transport Users Association Inc. Victoria, Australia, termed, “Small cars are unsafe and should be avoided,” as a myth. They said, in fact, some, but not all, small cars could cause injuries in the event of a crash. However, the chances of crash are less likely to take place. PTUA refers to Malcolm’s theory that proliferation of bigger cars increases a threat to safety on urban roads. They cite from findings that compared to other average models, aggressive large four wheel drives had caused more injuries to other road users. The study further states that Great Britain, where there are fewer number of large cars, boasts lesser fatality rate per kilometer driven than in Australia where there are more bigger cars (Morton).

New York Times in their article date lined, DETROIT. August 17, 2004 wrote, “Safety Gap Grows Wider Between the S.U.V.s and Cars.” They stated, according to federal traffic data, the gap in safety between passenger cars and S.U.V.s had been the widest last year. Compared to people driving or riding in cars, casualties of people using S.U.V.s were nearly 11 percent more in 2003. Despite of the safety concerns and lagging fuel economy, the popularity of S.U.V.s is on the increase in the United States. According to Ward’s AutoInfoBank, lately, sales for the biggest sport utility vehicles have come down, but medium size S.U.V.s that pass for cars are making large gains (Mom).

The Monitor reported that people may have many excuses for driving S.U.V.s, but none of them are valid. The reporter suggests to the S.U.V. owners that they would be better off driving a car, which would also help the environment and their non-S.U.V fellow motorists. The report says an S.U.V. consumes more energy than a car. It says, the extra energy consumed by a typical S.U.V is equal to the energy wasted by leaving a refrigerator open for eighteen years. Financially, most S.U.V. owners may be able to afford the vehicles, but environmentally, the extra carbon dioxide they spew into the atmosphere cannot be afforded (Fin).


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