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The aliens can only control a limited number of devices at a time, and they're on a schedule.
That's why trucks, but not cars. Not every single little motorized device. This can explain a lot of "why isn't X thing attacking?"
  • Cars did attack people. There was the pizza delivery VW that crashed into a tree killing the driver, which Deke sees when bicycling through the town and the lady who was killed by her car's automatic window when the heroes reach the pier and the one guy stops to steal the diamond ring from her finger.
    • Well yeah, they CAN, but with a limited number doable at a time, they prefer the trucks.
    • It's like how your Wi Fi router can only handle so many devices before connections start getting spotty.
  • Possibly the force was preferentially animating vehicles that had a full tank of gas over the ones that were nearly out of fuel, since the former could get more done before running dry. Which explains why so many trucks became animated at the Dixie Boy, but not the cars of the Bible salesman or the honeymooners: the truckers had routinely gassed up their vehicles upon arrival before they stopped inside for lunch, but the salesman rushed in without filling his tank because he was chasing Brett, and the couple were running for cover when they arrived after a long time on the roads, so were running on fumes.
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  • Alternatively, they may simply prefer larger vehicles, since they can do more damage.

Many nearby truck stops were also under siege. Things weren't going well for the machines there, either.
Which is why only one, single machine gun could be spared.

The aliens are not the bad guys.
It seems strange that the aliens can take over any and all machines on Earth but don't bother to take control of the satellites orbiting the Earth, which would be a good strategy to throw humanity in even more disarray. If they had done that, then they would not have been blown up by the "Russian weather satellite".

Simply put, the machines ARE alive because of the comet and not because of alien control. At worst, the aliens were just neutral observers. At best, they were beings who had something similar happen to them on their world and came to help humanity. The comet itself may have sentience, noted the UFO, and directed a satellite to fire a nuke at the UFO to prevent the aliens from aiding humanity. The ending line "The survivors of the Dixie Boy are still survivors" means that the machine menace is STILL ongoing.

Duel is a prequel to Maximum Overdrive.
The aliens controlling the trucks were still working things out - they tried taking over the human owner of the truck in Duel. Because it failed in the end, they decided to just keep it to the vehicles themselves.

Some machines are loyal to humans.
The car that Connie and Curtis use never turn against them. Neither does the Cadillac that Bubba uses. They are loyal to their human owners. That explains why the bulldozer uses the Caddy to antagonize Bubba (it never turned against him) and the car that Connie and Curt drove in with was assaulted by the big rigs and then crushed with extreme prejudice by the bulldozer. They were ashamed of their brethren and destroyed them.
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The Love Bug, Christine are failed alien attempts
In The '60s, the aliens tried to control a machine called a Volkswagen Beetle by giving it human emotions. Rather than viewing itself as a slave, the car viewed itself as human and helped humanity. This was a failure. In The '70s, the aliens tried again with a Plymouth Fury but found that the car also had emotions but as a Yandere lover; willing to kill but for the sake of a human. A step in the right direction but not good enough. By The '80s, they had perfected their techniques by making the machines soulless yet full of hatred towards humans.
  • Except for the book, Christine was hinted to be active as far back after 1958 (the year the car was manufactured), as the car was suggested to be responsible for the death of Le Bay's child and had incredible abilities outside of self repair (in the book, there's a recounting that a group of Lebay's friends picked up Christine's rear end off the ground when George tried to leave, only for her roll forward on her front wheels, degloving the skin on one of the fingers on one of them).
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