March 16, 2011

HOW AUTOMOBILE CULTURE KILLED THE STATION WAGON:

End of the Road: Some thoughts on the death of the station wagon. (Greg Beato, Smart Set)

The station wagon is dead — again — and like the many demises it has already suffered in its long fruitful life, this one comes with an asterisk. The reason for the asterisk is that there are still dozens of vehicles on the market that answer to the name “station wagon.” The reason for the declaration of death — and subsequent obituaries — is Volvo’s recent announcement that it will soon stop selling station wagons in the U.S.

In 1999, the niche purveyor of sensible transport for NPR-Americans sold 40,000 station wagons and felt its fortunes were on the rise thanks to the quirky, post-ironic aesthetic sensibilities of a new generation of car buyers. “It used to be that when you were married and expecting your first child, it was time for a Volvo wagon,” company spokesman Daniel Johnston told the Wall Street Journal in 2000. “Now Gen-Xers are buying them because they think wagons look cool.” Jump-cut to 2010 when, according to Fortune, Volvo sold just 480 station wagons in the U.S. Clearly, Gen X has moved on.

While Volvo never sold the kind of boxy land barges that exist in our collective consciousness as the archetypal station wagon, the company has been selling its own take on the form since the days when those massive machines were bruising highways from coast to coast. And thus its departure from the market feels momentous, or at the very least, it gives us an opportunity to mourn the passing of a vehicle we find easy to live without and yet hard to let go of.

What is it about the mid-century station wagon that calls to us so strongly?


We just looked for a car to replace our Yukon--which is just too big for The Wife to be comfortable driving and which doesn't have three benches (like our Suburban did), so I don't love it. We routinely--as in multiple afternoons per week and weekends--carry three to five kids/teens and karate, ski or hockey equipment. But modern vehicles are seemingly built on the core assumption that no car will ever have more than two people, and maybe two small children, in it. Where's a Country Squire when you need one?


Posted by at March 16, 2011 6:03 AM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« COMBINE RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE AND IMMIGRATION WITH TIGHT MONEY...: | Main | WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR, BABY?: »