European SUV backlash spreads

Beads of sweat are gathering on the foreheads of European automakers, as a backlash against sport utility vehicles spreads across the continent. Several countries have passed or are weighing measures that could hurt SUV sales. London Mayor Ken Livingstone displayed his usual delicacy when he referred to SUV drivers as “complete idiots” and proposed doubling the city’s $9 congestion fee for them. Paris’ city council wants to ban the big vehicles entirely from the city center, and the French government is considering raising taxes on them. The issue is as much cultural as environmental — while many Americans appreciate the swaggering, my-freedom-in-your-face image of SUVs and their illusion of safety, Europeans value a lack of outward ostentation and respect for collective health.