HIGHTOWER: New SUV Gets PR Facelift

Oops. The Unimog has fallen into a PR ditch.

This is the humongous vehicle that DaimlerChrysler has hailed as the next level of SUV, touting it as a macho, yet luxurious vehicle that lets you feel superior to everyone else on the road. A promotional brochure reads: "There are a lot of vehicles out there playing at being 4X4's. They're small. Usually they're cute. And sometimes, instead of going to the mall or the grocery store, they actually go off-road. But you want a real all-terrain vehicle." Then came the punch line: "Aggressive and bold. That's you in the Unimog."

Well, as the New York Times reports you could be plenty aggressive since this thing stands nine feet tall, is seven feet wide, and weighs 12,500 pounds. But this is no crude tank -- the Unimog was being pitched to wealthy suburbanites who would appreciate feeling macho while also enjoying the plush leather seats, mood lighting, 1,000-watt stero, and other luxuries. And its $84,000 price tag certainly would set you apart form the riff-raff.

But his road hog was widely criticized for its shamelss excess, especially since it would get less than 10 miles a gallon and burn air-polluting diesel fuel. The Sierra Club dubbed it the "Daimler-saurus Wrecks." As a result, the company has now backed off its PR pitch, claiming that the Unimog strictly is a truck that is meant for businesses, fire departments, and rescue services. Oh, says the company, a few might be sold for personal use, but these will go to what it calls, the "gentlemen rancher" who own 10,000 acre spreads and will use it for ranch work or to go elk hunting.

But an Oregon doctor says that when the company sold a Unimog to him, "They were really pushing the SUV aspect," noting that he uses his to commute to his clinic. He adds, "If you used it for work, with all the amenities that were in it, you'd destroy it pretty quickly."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Whatever they call it, the Unimog is a hog.

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