Steven Levitt is confused. He doesn't understand why SUVs are still dying even though gas is cheap again. He gives three possibilities, but this is the real winner.
2) The uncertainty of fluctuating gas prices takes the fun out of owning an S.U.V. Even if gas prices won’t be that high on average, it is so unpleasant to have an S.U.V. when gas prices are high that people don’t want to have them if gas prices are volatile. This explanation seems kind of dumb to me, but maybe it is possible.First of all, it's not dumb, especially if you're a middle-to-working class individual who's living paycheck to paycheck. Having your weekly transportation costs more than double on you can really jam you up when you're living tight to begin with, and seeing as how the average worker hasn't gotten a real raise versus inflation in 30 years on the average, that's a big deal. Temporary relief in the form of gas prices returning to what we're used to isn't going to be much of a motivator when it comes to buying a new vehicle, especially when the pain is so recent.
There's also the matter of fossil fuels being a limited resource, and the successful framing of energy independence as a necessary part of national security that has changed the American mindset toward SUVs in general. We do understand supply and demand on a basic level, after all, and as oil gets scarcer and scarcer, as it inevitably must, we know that it's going to get pricier and pricier. Now, if gas stays around its current levels for a couple of years, we'll see a return to bigger vehicles, I have no doubt. Americans have short memories, which is a nice way of saying we're dumb about this sort of thing. But that's not going to be enough to save the Humscalade from a short term death.