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SUV King lived long enough to rue what they became

When Automotive News Europe selected "The 100 Most Influential Persons of the Millennium in the European Auto Industry" back in 1999, Spen King ranked No. 64.

He was in pretty good company. Among the titans King outpointed on that list of luminaries were Giorgetto Giugiaro, Marcello Gandini, Jacobus Spyker, Donald Healey, Wilhelm Karmann, Carl Hahn, Wolfgang Reitzle, Giovanni Michelotti and Wendelin Wiedeking.

Perhaps you've never heard of Charles Spencer King, who died last week at age 85 in Coventry, England. But he affected Americans' lives in ways no one could have imagined when he led development of the passenger-friendly Range Rover in the late 1960s. King, in effect, invented the modern SUV.

King lived long enough to behold the SUV sensation that grew out of the original Range Rover. And it bothered him some.

"Sadly, the 4x4 has become an acceptable alternative to Mercedes or BMW for the pompous, self-important driver," King told London's Daily Mail in 2004. "To use them for the school run, or even in cities or towns at all, is completely stupid."

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