Sunday, October 03, 2010

Life without Pickups

In three weeks in Europe (Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and England) I saw but one vehicle that might pass as a pickup truck.

Very odd.

Because pickups are embedded in American culture (they are the largest single category of vehicle sold here), the lack of open haulers in Europe must be a cultural marker.

For starters, here's an entire continent without pickup OWNERS.

That’s huge!

Allow me to unleash a few stereotypes....No gun racks, no National Rifle Association window stickers. (Could Europe’s strict gun laws account for the lack of pickups? Help me out here, red-blooded gun lovers.)

No “God Bless America” signs (“God Bless France”?), no Golden retrievers (White Poodles?) hanging over the sides.

No tailgates.

(If only there were no tailgaters. In Germany they drive Mercedes Benz’s. They must call them something else in Europe. “Bumper chasers?” Don’t ask me what I called them. This is a “family” blog.)

And what about tailgate parties? Talk about cultural deprivation!

How else do pickup trucks define us in these United States?

We “throw stuff” into our pickups. We move a lot. We move stuff a lot.

In Europe, they don’t move so much. And when they do, it isn’t very far. And they have less stuff.

They do have these little vans (they aren’t big enough to be “moving vans”) that seem to substitute for pickups. I doubt anyone “throws” stuff into them because you can’t see what you might hit. The wife? The poodle? The kids?

Nor can you throw stuff out of your van. A van’s contents, not “stuff,” needs to be removed, carefully.

America is a big country and a pickup truck, parked in our expanse (deserts, plains, fields, driveways), allows its owner to load from the back, the sides and the sky (vis. the girder-dropping “Ford Tough” ads).

Vans, on the other hand, get parked next to hedgerows, frilly boutiques in alley-sized streets, or embankments on narrow country lanes.

Enclosed as they are, vans offer no “sides” or “tops” to load from.

I’ve done a little on-line sleuthing on this NO PICKUPS in EUROPE subject and somebody in a Fodor’s travel discussion mentioned the tax advantages the Feds give pickups here.

And someone else said that a pickup’s turning radius would be limiting in European tight spaces.

Another returned tourist mentioned prohibitive European gas prices, which run nearly three times what they are here.

All true enough, but no one got into the deeper anthropological significance of this difference. It seems like a rich lode for some PhD. candidate who is desperate for a dissertation topic.

As for me, I don’t want to judge these cultures based on transport preferences, but to any visitor to one or the other continent, the pickup difference is unavoidable and weird.

Consider being a confused European visiting Cheyenne, Billings or Waco from Rome, Paris or Amsterdam.

You’ve just seen a pickup truck for the first time. Here’s a vehicle that looks seriously deprived. Who would drive one of those?

And what’s with that rifle hanging across the cabin window?

And the three rangy dogs pacing around in back, drooling over the sides?

Very strange place, this America.

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Anonymous pickup truck said...

I’m guessing that the bottom line is that they don’t want to sell you a sub-20 grand mini pickup. They want to sell you a near 30 grand full size pickup. Both cost about the same to make, but the one has a built in 10 grand profit margin.

1:15 AM  

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