For years, American automakers have went out of their way to ensure that you, the helpless American consumer, are allowed to buy the ugliest vehicles on Earth. Mind you, this was not easy; it is, after all, difficult to design a car exactly wrong–but by God we are talking about the American consumer here, and when you are talking about American consumers, you are talking about people who have better taste than to buy a vehicle with good taste.
In the early 1980s, this trend was begun, when Jeep unveiled its Jeep Cherokee. Now, this was technically not a car or a truck–it was more along the lines of a station wagon propped up with four wheel drive, so that it had neither the fuel economy of a car nor the usefulness of a truck. Jeep realized, in looking at this abomination of a vehicle, that it had created something that Americans would love, and went on to sell millions of these vehicles, calling them “Sport Utility Vehicles”, because taking one’s children to school is as sporty as washing machine races.
Ford followed quickly with the Ford Bronco, which rolled over often, and then the Ford Explorer, which rolled over even more often. Both of these were “kind of” trucks: in the kind of bold forward-thinking that Ford is famous for, there was no pickup bed in either of these vehicles, which meant that they weren’t really trucks but couldn’t be called cars either. Naturally, they became very popular, and so Ford unveiled the Escape, a vehicle that rolls over less, but has the unfortunate side effect of actually being a car that only looks like a truck. However, it should be noted that, like the Jeep Cherokee, the Escape offers neither the fuel efficiency of a car (check for yourself) nor the versatility of a pickup truck. This is the sole reason that Americans buy them.
Sadly, Japanese carmakers have been slow to react to the “not really a car, not really a truck” phenomenon. Sure, Toyota has a lot of SUVs, but they’re usually fuel efficient like the Toyota RAV-4, so they don’t count. Subaru came close to making a vehicle that has absolutely no utility value whatsoever with its Subaru Baja, which was a car with the trunk ripped out and replaced with a plastic pickup bed, but nobody bought it, because it was a Subaru.
However, Japanese automakers are beginning to create cars that cater to Americans’ lack of taste and abundance of closeted homosexuality in ever-increasing numbers. First on the scene was Subaru, of course, but then Honda came on with their Ridgeline, which is the ugliest vehicle ever made. Finally, Toyota, in a last ditch effort to lose money like only American carmakers can, has released a car, the Toyota A-Bat, to appeal to Americans with more money than taste.
NOTE: The following picture is to shield the eyes of non-Americans. It should be noted that the picture following the picture right below this one will make your eyes explode if you are not a resident of the United States.
ALSO NOTE THAT ALASKA, HAWAII, CANADA, AND MEXICO DO NOT COUNT AS “AMERICA.” THE “PEOPLE” THAT LIVE IN THESE PLACES ARE ACTUALLY ALIENS, SOMETHING I READ IN “TIME” MAGAZINE.
(The following picture is meant as a warning.)
(All right, seriously, here’s the A-Bat)
The Toyota A-Bat is likely a concept which will be used on the new Toyota Tacoma. It’s small (about the size of a RAV-4), has a four-cylinder hybrid engine, seats four, has a four-foot-long cargo bed and will cost God-alone-knows-how-much. It should clearly be a winner for Toyota, because its core customer base has taste, brains, and money, but doesn’t know how to use any of these things.
The interior is equally beautiful and sophisticated.
Notice the foam backing on the front seats with nothing behind it, the steering wheel that isn’t round, the yellow color and abundance of shapes that aren’t even ergonomic, let alone attractive. These all aid in Toyota’s groundbreaking concept, which is so usefully useless that it should be able to sell twice as much as the Ford Explorer has in its first year alone.
Now, the automakers understand that some people just want a compact pickup. Not everybody needs an F-150 all the time, least of all one that gets fifteen miles to the gallon. They understand that very well. That’s why Pontiac is about to unveil its G-8 pickup to the United States.
It’s a car with a pickup bed. Technically, it’s not as useless as the A-BAT, nor quite as ugly, although Pontiac did make a concerted effort at ugliness with the kink in the bed right behind the driver cab. Also, the vehicle has a V-8 engine, and so comes very close to guzzling gas like the Space Shuttle, but just isn’t quite on that level. Clearly, the domestics still have a long way to go where it counts.
So there’s your Detroit Auto Show preview. While foreign brands like Toyota lead the way in ugliness and uselessness, the domestics struggle to catch up. It’s anybody’s guess as to where this race for ugly uselessness will lead Toyota, Ford, General Motors and Subaru, but one thing is quite clear: if you need a compact truck, one that’s fuel efficient but capable and dependable, there’s only one place you should go.
Namely, someplace else.