Sales of some big SUVs drop by half

It’s an early Christmahanukwanzakah present for the planet, and a chunk of coal in the stocking of Detroit’s Big Three automakers: The American love affair with huge SUVs seems finally to be on the wane. Really this time! Sales of once-hot vehicles like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Suburban are about half what they were a year ago. Auto-industry watchers blame plummeting SUV demand for much of Detroit’s financial woes, saying consumers have woken up to the volatility of fuel costs. Auto execs, on the other hand, blame … anyone but themselves, really. They claim high labor costs and rigid union rules are doing them in, not gas prices. Mmmkay. Still, GM and Ford both announced yesterday that they’d cut back SUV and truck production in favor of passenger cars, whose overall sales have picked up. Nothing like a touch of financial peril to focus the mind.