Nissan’s Rogue was the best-selling vehicle without a pickup bed in December of 2016, largely thanks to a massive advertising campaign that tied into one of the two recent Star Wars movies where only teenaged girls can be trusted to save the universe. …
Once upon a time, the best-selling car in the America was the Ford Model T. This makes perfect sense, because the Model T was an utterly perfect device for putting a country on wheels for the first time. Simple, easy to operate, and hugely capable, the T was everybody’s first car well into the postwar period.
After that, the best-selling car in America was generally the full-sized “standard” Chevrolet. In 1965, it moved over a million units, making it nearly twice as popular as the overnight-sensation Mustang.
By 1990, however, the holy trinity of Taurus, Accord, and Camry were in charge of affairs. The Camry eventually took the top spot and held it, on and off, for 20 years, easily fighting off a production-constrained Accord and a, um, demand-constrained Taurus.
Wildly popular expansions to the lineup, like the hybrid model and the SE/XSE, should have ensured the Camry’s hegemony among actual passenger cars well into the supposedly inevitable electric-car transition phase.
Let’s call the first theory Lowered Expectations/Bigger Subcompacts. In this theory, Americans are short on money and optimism, so they’re making the move from the Camry to the Corolla. (The same holds true for the Accord, which is beaten in the sales charts by the Civic as often as it is not.) Surely this was why the Ford Escort took the top spot 35 years ago; a country drunk on long-hood expressions of personal-luxury power woke up the morning after the party and found a note from the President telling them to wear a sweater in the winter and choose a fuel-efficient car. …
Those are the theories. Which is correct? Maybe it’s all of them. But I yearn for a world where none of them would have any power whatsoever. I think about what Americans were expressing when they made the mighty V8-powered Cutlass Supreme (yes, I know not all of them were V8-powered) the nation’s leading car. I thrill to think of a country that would make a two-ton four-seater its favorite whip. We had style back then.
But in a world where the automobile is increasingly seen as a problem to be solved, rather than an escape to freedom, who wants style? When our heroes are teenaged girls, why wouldn’t we be satisfied with a nice, safe, mommy’s-basement car like the RAV4?
Personally, the Toyota RAV4 seems fine to me.
The thing you have to keep in mind when reading car critics is that they like driving more than you do. The closer a modern car is to a 1965 English roadster like a Triumph Spitfire or an MG MGB — the kind of car you didn’t own, it owned you — the better.
Anyway, this is just an excuse to bring up the name of Jack Baruth who is a really good car writer.