Not too long ago, it was easy to describe and define a car and a truck. That time is gone.
It is ridiculous to assume that any minivan is a truck when they all seem to be carting around Little Leaguers. And you don't see many Navigators or Escalades on construction sites. They are mainly people movers around suburbia.
Automobile companies still have important reasons for wanting certain vehicles defined as cars or trucks. There still are different emissions standards for cars and trucks and, for the time being, having a vehicle classified as a truck can make life a bit easier.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has all but eliminated the differences in safety rules between cars and trucks, but you have to ask: Did it ever make sense to have different rules for minivans and station wagons?
There also are separate corporate average fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.
All of those things make it harder to figure out what's what. There was a time when anyone could tell you what a truck or a car was. It didn't matter what the government said, we simply knew. Sort of like the quote about pornography: 'I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.'
We all knew what was a truck and what was a car, and although we didn't always agree with the government, we at least understood the games that companies had to play.
Take a look at a Chrysler PT Cruiser and try to determine if it's a car or a truck. Well, this time, the government says yes to both. As impossible as that may seem, it appears that different agencies are using different definitions for the same vehicle. EPA will call it a car for emissions standards, but NHTSA likely will allow DaimlerChrysler to call it a truck for fuel-economy and safety purposes.
Government agencies should get together and create some meaningful rules that apply to all vehicles. With non-cars accounting for almost half of the U.S. market, we need one set of standards for every vehicle under a certain gross vehicle weight; another for a medium weight class; and a third for everything heavier. Same safety, same emissions, same CAFE.
The world has changed, and it's time for the government to change the rules.