P1070978Gigantic pickup trucks have sprouted like mushrooms on French roads. Until recently, the only pickups were some museum pieces–ancient Peugeots, their rust barely holding them together, usually slumped to one side, the way many of us end up late in life.

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A Peugeot 404. Classic.
04.JANUARY 12 - 1
Talk about rugged…typical “camionettes” used by artisans and winegrowers below:


A camionette in the vineyards.

Considering that French streets are about four feet wide and parking spots are the size of a kitchen sink (and underground parking garages have ceilings so low you have to commando-crawl out of them), the new generation of pickups on steroids are more often found outside cities.

Example of a wall in the center of town that has taken a beating. The streets, laid out around 1260, are barely wide enough for a small car to pass a small parked car. The sidewalks are similarly skimpy.
The lump on the right is called a “chasse-roue” or wheel-chaser.

Check out this pickup description, on a car site: “the arrogance and exaggerated size of U.S. monsters…” And on the Parisien: “In the city, where its outsize build that isn’t always easy, attracts disapproving and inquisitive looks, proof that the big 4×4 still has the image of a polluter.” And on another car site: “If some consider them retrograde…” and later calls them “mastadons.”

XXXL vehicle in M parking space.
Can’t fit into a parking space? Use the sidewalk.

The main reason for this sudden love of gashogs? Taxes! You didn’t think it was because they are practical (not) or beautiful (absolutely not)?

For some reason, France decided that big SUVs weren’t ecological and slapped an €8,000 malus (penalty) on them, causing sales to drop. And for some reason, France decided that pickups are utilitarian vehicles and so their pollution is OK, regardless of their emissions.

On top of that, they qualify for one of Europe’s favorite tax dodges: company cars. Companies not only don’t have to pay taxes on company cars but they also get to deduct 100% of the TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée, or value-added tax–a special kind of sales tax, kind of, which is 20% on fuel) on diesel.

My car would fit in that wheel well.

During the summer, a traveling monster truck show passed through. In French, they’re called monster trucks, but monster sounds like mahn-STAIR. Stunt vehicles are cascaders.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯P1070194



Who knew!


26 thoughts on “Highway to Hell

  1. I’ve never been to France (yet!), but I can see how these trucks would not fit into the picture there (much less the streets or parking spots). I can’t exactly vilify the things, as our family all own them. They are extremely useful here where we are in a semi-country setting, and much cheaper than paying to have things hauled or delivered. I have to say though, I do wish they weren’t so big. Polluters and gas-hogs for sure, and I don’t think we’ve used the backseat more than once each year. My father’s little truck of the 1970’s sufficed to do the same hauling jobs these big trucks do. Trouble is, they don’t make those anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Americanization of France… These machines look even more ridiculous and out of place in medieval-sized European streets, as they do in my corner of the American suburban woods. Forget the environment (or sheer sense of aesthetics:) Boys must have their toys, wherever they hail from, I suppose. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OH MY!!!!!!!
    I loved the APE when we lived in ITALY!I even wanted to bring one HOME!But they are small compared to these…….but still a PICK UP CAR!!!
    OH THOSE FRENCH will we ever figure them OUT??!!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In Britain (an overcrowded country with over-burdened roads and cities) we call SUVs Chelsea Tractors. They are out of place there and they are out of place here. On the other hand that cute little Renault 4 takes me right back to the summer I left school when I worked on the land in my home county and was allocated just that with it’s dashboard shift to run around between farms. I also had a tractor and it wasn’t from Chelsea!!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My husband has a Mini Cooper S (new style built in my home city of Oxford but had an old school one as a student). I had a VW Beetle called Aubrey Strawberry when I was first working in London and our dream is a 2CV, some sort of a Citroen old-school pick-up or van and a Citroen 15 C1932-45 … one can always dream, non?

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Oddly the best place to buy a fully reconditioned 2CV is the US … perhaps you might put in an order and we can come to an arrangement down the line when we are shipping a huge cargo that you slip your little electric darling into our hold 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to agree that most of the roads are just not suitable, and who has to back up when you meet one of these monsters? Of course the car that should be there and not these ridiculous monsters that follow a GPS onto roads it should never be on!!! Diane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The monster doesn’t back up because it’s bigger. The 4WD aspect isn’t necessary, either, because even back roads are paved here. And the vignerons have done just fine with their little old camionettes, even in vineyards.


  6. I’m laughing out loud at this post. So so true. Us Americans really do not know how to manage this. I’ve driven in the Middle East, all over Europe, and gotten lost in many places. I’ve discovered that parking is the MOST difficult. No space anywhere, and if there is a parking garage you have to actually HUNT for it, then figure out how to pay, etc. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love these old French cars – would love to have one. Interesting article – I was last in France in 2017 and I remarked that I thought there was more “American” size cars / trucks. They seem so out of place. We lived in Germany in the 80’s and early 90’s and our American car had a bit of trouble in some areas there as well (although German cars at that time were bigger than french cars – The German taxi was the BIG Mercedes). I remember driving to France in our Mercury Topaz in 1991 and how everyone thought it was so big.

    What I really hope – is that we are able to find a clean energy alternative that is cost affordable and the production of allows for jobs. The transition to clean energy all around will be a balancing act – it won’t make everyone happy (all at once). BUT one day we will look back and say “oh my, what were we thinking – fossil fuels.” Until then, a lot of work will need to be done – change is HARD and takes time.

    I recycle here in the US – but I have to on my own and take everything monthly to a recycle point – France so has recycling down to an art! Great Job. Oh and the healthcare system in France so awesome in comparison to the states. Both of these issues – need to improve here in the states – but we have to remind ourselves that the US is a huge country and it takes time to “manage change.” I just hope both of these things change soon. You’d think that with more people – change would come quicker – but I think it’s just the opposite. I read once that on average, it takes people 18 months to become comfortable with change.

    Thanks for the inside look on what’s happening in France.


    Liked by 1 person

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