February 28, 2001
8:39 AM   Subscribe

The Unimog, a converted German military vehicle manufactured by Daimler-Chrysler will be sold as a luxury vehicle in the US later this year. (This ten-foot-tall, six-ton beast dwarfs the Hummer.) According to Unimog marketing manager Bruce Barnes, "even in Scottsdale, Arizona, moms will want to take it to the grocery store. It's a head-turning vehicle." It seems to me this thing pretty much condemns itself, but here's a tree-hugging press release to chew on.
posted by sudama (23 comments total)
The trucks are used in Europe a lot, even Russia and so on. Doesn't look any different from your boring straight truck or airport pulley. I don't get it... who'd want to buy this? Why not just get a fucking semi?
posted by tiaka at 8:46 AM on February 28, 2001

Thank Ghod for the recession. Granny was fixin' get one of these with her eToys dividends.

posted by jfuller at 8:56 AM on February 28, 2001

universal marketing truth: "in times of prosperity, the mannequins in store displays always smile and the cars are always larger." has there ever been a period with larger, more wasteful vehicles than the era we're currently in?

marketing this as a consumer object to be fetishized is absolutely reprehensible...reminiscent of the perverse ford (chevy? can't remember) SUV ad which touts the owner's love of the outdoors, even as they conspicuously remove themselves from and objectify the entire concept of "being outside."
posted by patricking at 8:56 AM on February 28, 2001

The Unimog is so wide that, by federal regulation, it must carry truck marker lights across the top of the front and back.

Any chance of this abombination requiring a commercial license as well?
posted by harmful at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2001

If its hauling capacity were one pound more than its 26,000 pounds, the driver would require a Commercial Truck Driver's License.

from the Sierra Club/Worldwatch link above
posted by gimli at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2001

This is good, because my potential to be crushed inside my VW Golf by haphazard drivers in those small SUVs wasn't high enough. I am pleased that people with cell phones and overgrown senses of entitlement will be able to cut me off ever more effectively now.

Oh but I'm sure that some people have a dog, or kids (and we all know that children won't fit in normal sized cars), or bikes (and we all know that normal sized cars collapse under the weight of bike racks), or have to drive over two potholes on the way to work in the morning so their purchase of this vehicle will be totally justified.
posted by jennyb at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2001

you know what would be cool to drive would be those gian airport trucks with the huge wheels that come up to the cab level. Why not sell those while they're at it?

posted by cell divide at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2001

"If its hauling capacity were one pound more than its 26,000 pounds, the driver would require a Commercial Truck Driver's License. And the Unimog gets a mere 10 miles per gallon-even worse than the 13mpg achieved by many gas-guzzling SUVs. "
posted by outsider at 9:53 AM on February 28, 2001

moms will want to take it to the grocery store.

Here in London we already have the frequent sight of Sloane Ranger mums running their kids to primary school in space-wagons and 4WDs - wait till they get a sight of these things....
posted by CatherineB at 10:09 AM on February 28, 2001

If anyone actually buys this for simply getting groceries, I will help fund that person's lobotomy and complete removal from society.

The Unimog is not new to the US, by the way, and calling it an SUV is beyond ridiculous.
posted by hijinx at 10:13 AM on February 28, 2001

I agree that this is horribly impractical for most, but they are great vehicles in some respects. I have driven the US military version of these quite abit, and they were much better than the Humvee. They are near impossible to get stuck, with a fjording kit and a CTIS system that can change tire pressures on the fly. The transfer case is computer controllled, allowing you to change how much power is going to which set of wheels. Pretty impressive, but I can't think of one civilan use for these things.
posted by ttrendel at 10:24 AM on February 28, 2001

That is one ugly P.O.S.! Who in their right mind would drive such a thing in public? Here comes the Germans, saving Chrysler from bad sales! Wow... brilliant! Let's manufacture big, ugly trucks who appeal to big, fat construction workers (and soccer moms). I'm sure they'll be in the black with this one. ... you're right, hijinx... lobotomies around.
posted by fusinski at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2001

"Unimog"? How . . . lame. Worst product name ever (ignoring for a moment the numbing crapiosity of the product itself). Who wants anything called a "Unimog"? Calling it "Rectal Itch" would even be better.
posted by Skot at 10:28 AM on February 28, 2001

Skot: it's been called "Unimog" for decades. Changing the name now would be like renaming the Jeep. This vehicle is renowned among the 4x4 fans who are its most likely buyers.

This is a competitor for the Hummer and not the Excursion. Talking about this as though people are going to buy one as a family car is just silly - if Mr. Barnes actually believes that, he has . It's just... not built like that. It only seats three people, you have to climb up a couple of steps to get into it, it only runs on diesel... this is not a grocery getter. This is a luxury vehicle for people who want the biggest, toughest truck money can buy. And that's all it is. They're only talking about selling 250 a year to individuals; I doubt they could push more than two or three times that many out the door if they tried.

I'm as incensed by massive, wasteful gas-guzzlers as anyone, but the unimog is so far from being a practical option for the American suburbs that it just doesn't seem worth worrying about.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:56 AM on February 28, 2001

Mars is spot on. This thing is not going to be a soccer mom/Sloane Ranger vehicle. But I can see it as a vanity purchase for nouveau riche celebrities and athletes with more money than taste or sense. (Many of them already have Hummers, after all. Beep beep, who's got the keys to the jeep?)

Oh but I'm sure that some people have a dog, or kids (and we all know that children won't fit in normal sized cars), or bikes (and we all know that normal sized cars collapse under the weight of bike racks).

I'm still waiting for someone to show me the "normal sized car" that can hold two adults, five children, two dogs and four bikes at once, and navigate unpaved back country roads in the winter. That's my payload and my driving route; until there's an alternative, I'm sticking with my Durango.
posted by Dreama at 11:13 AM on February 28, 2001

MetaFilter - useless hand-wringing since 1999
posted by Mick at 11:15 AM on February 28, 2001

I am guessing they'll modify the cab and appearance quite a bit to sell it as a luxury vehicle. As distasteful (wasteful) as I find this monstrosity, offroading looks like a hell of a lot of fun. Check out this unbelievable angle.
posted by sudama at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2001

What's wrong with the Unimog? Try the Kenworth Dominator.

I agree that the Unimog is mainly going to be bought as a high-end off-road vehicle, with occasional purchases for promotional purposes and even fewer for status. Despite the PR, hardly anyone gonna drive this to the mall. I mean, really, I live on Chicago's North Shore, and I've seen three Hummers in my entire life, and two of them belonged to radio stations.

One that you will be seeing more of is GM's attempt to popularize the Hummer with its H2 Concept, which actually makes a realistic stab at making the darned thing something of a usable street vehicle. And yes, there are massive-utes like the Excursion, but frankly, how many of them do you see? The people in the market for a $60,000 vehicle don't purchase them lightly. Usually they actually are hauling 8-10 people around, or towing a boat.

Meanwhile, for the anti-SUV whiners, keep in mind that most of the growth in the "sport utility" segment is actually in hybrids, usually built on a car platform. They're smaller, they ride better, and they get better gas mileage by far -- some (like the CRV) as good as sedans. Most of them use AWD rather than 4WD, which is a more effective combination for the road-gripping in bad weather that many people cite. And though they superficially resemble off-road vehicles, they really shouldn't be taken beyond a dirt road. So what are they? Tall wagons. (That's what the Japanese call them.)

That said, yes, I'm all in favor of better engines for SUVs. They're only as bad as they are because of the light-truck loophole in the EPA regs. There's no reason the smart folks in Detroit and Yokohama can't build us strong, capable vehicles that also get great gas mileage.
posted by dhartung at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2001

From hijinx's link:

"A properly-equipped Unimog can tow up to 600 tons"

Can this be an actual figure? That's 1.2 million pounds, or to put it another way, 4,700 accountingboy-sized people. I'm not sure what your average Freightliner can haul, but that seems pretty high even for an 18-wheeler.
posted by OneBallJay at 1:41 PM on February 28, 2001

A mate bought an ex-military Unimog at auction, converted it to a comfortable home, and drove it from the UK to Tasmania. [Ferries where appropriate]
Such German off-road kit can do way more than most people ever need, and you certainly pay for it, but when you're given a transit visa measured in hours to get across a not overly welcoming middle eastern country, you can just concentrate on making it.
Mostly they're just toys though.
posted by southisup at 4:13 PM on February 28, 2001

Someone needs to write a spoof about consumer-grade garbage truck SUVs.

Seeing the Unimog makes me want to get a roll cage in my '88 golf.
posted by mecran01 at 6:41 AM on March 1, 2001

accountingboy, good math. I poked around and it seems that "600 tons" may have been a typo for "60 tons". One source said that the heaviest-grade Unimog now sold could tow 80 tons. FYI, I believe the type being contemplated for US sale is based on the light-duty chassis.

Metric/English units, who knows, but close enough for this discussion.

(For comparison, the heaviest railroad train ever was a 540-car Australian ore train weighing 80,000 tons and pulled by 10 diesel locomotives. And a fully-loaded triple-bottom road train traversing Oz roads could be around 150 tons.)
posted by dhartung at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2001

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