From The Truth About Cars:
By Jack Baruth on January 6, 2017
Blame the Rebels.
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. …
You can learn a lot about American society by looking at the best-selling car in any given year. …
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.
It wasn’t until the Seventies that the Cutlass Supreme made a play for the top slot, mostly on the strength of the hugely popular coupe variant.
Everything I bought in 1970 (mostly backpacking gear and Hot Wheels) was orange or lime green.
The Chevy Citation and the Ford Escort were best-sellers after that.
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.
Instead, the catfish-faced juggernaut finds itself scrapping with CUVs and subcompacts for a top-five slot. What’s going on? There are a few different theories that might apply.
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.
I spent an hour watching videos of the Larry Sanders Show looking for a clip where Elvis Costello talks Hank Kingsley into buying his lemon MG sports car, but couldn’t find it.
Thus, Mazda gets great reviews even though they tend to be too loud inside to carry on a conversation because car writers find conversations a tedious distraction from communing with the car.
Anyway, this is just an excuse to bring up the name of Jack Baruth who is a really good car writer.