We acquired our Tennessee-made/Japanese-designed Nissan Xterra while we were still living in Canada. At the time, I was looking for the most appropriate film production crew vehicle that could also handle the mountains, snow and off-roads of British Columbia. It had the space, the "utility" (four power outlets, tie downs, fold-flat seats), and the four-wheel drive necessary to fulfill this task. In other words, the right tool for the job. [This was prior to our assuming a "Local First" lifestyle, but as Michael Shuman has argued in the "Small-Mart Revolution" "Buying American" via a globally-sourced GM or Ford is not quite as virtuous as buying local.]
Packed to the ceiling with gear, it was perfect for our two Independent America road trips -- and still more economical than Charles Kuralt's RV.
Recently -- probably like most North Americans -- I had to reassess our vehicle policy given gas prices and that we were now living in a more urban setting in Seattle.
I'm sticking with the SUV.
It just doesn't make sense financially, or even environmentally, to trade it in. When I'm not on a film job, I fill it up one to two times a month -- I tend to commute via bike, kayak or on foot. Replacing it with a hybrid sounds good, but given my driving habits, it'll take ten years or so to justify the loss in depreciation. I read recently that the amount of carbon, etc. required to produce a hybrid battery means that you've already consumed 1000 gallons of fuel even before you drive your first mile. Then there's the hidden environmental cost that goes into producing yet another brand new half-ton piece of road machinery. Even if I rid myself of the "guilt" of owning an SUV, it doesn't mean that it would disappear from the planet.
I know this sounds like intense rationalization, but unless someone is a daily, long-distance daily commuter, it seems to me we have two, clear sensible alternatives to the panicked hybrid stampede:
(1) Drive less (my choice).
(2) Trade-in for a smaller, more fuel-efficient used vehicle (recycling at its best).
... and wait a few more years until viable, non-gasoline alternatives hit the market.