- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 9 (UPI) — Most sport-utility vehicle owners driving oversized SUVs from gas station to gas station apparently don’t feel guilty about their gas-guzzling ways.

An Internet survey Thursday indicated anti-SUV commercials by a group called Project Detroit are unlikely to convince many motorists to abandon their vehicles. Some 73 percent of the people responding to the Detroit News' daily CyberSurvey question said people who drive SUVs should not feel guilty about their fuel consumption.

The anti-SUV television campaign, headed by syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington and directed by the man who directed the "Got Milk" campaign, equates owning an SUV with supporting terrorism.

In a 30-second ad crafted to resemble a public service announcement SUV drivers say: "I helped hijack an airplane … I helped blow up a nightclub … So what if it gets 11 miles to the gallon … I gave money to a terrorist training camp in a foreign country."

A child's voice in a second commercial says terrorists get money every time "George" fills his tank. The spot ends with the line: "What is your SUV doing to national security?"

Critics say the messages are ridiculous and scapegoat SUV owners. WDIV-TV, Detroit, refused to air them.

The spots were timed to run during the Los Angeles Auto Show and the 15th North American International Auto Show, which opens to the public Saturday.

Last November, nuns drove five religious leaders around Detroit in Toyota Prius hybrid gasoline-electric cars as part of the "What World Jesus Drive?" The group made a moral appeal to Big Three automakers to get Americans to buy fuel-efficient vehicles.

Americans bought more than 3 million SUVs in 2002, compared to 1.1 million a decade ago and for the second consecutive year automakers sold more pickups, trucks and sport-utility vehicles than passenger cars.

"Let's face it. America loves SUVs," Ford President Nick Scheele told the Detroit Free Press. "They are some of the best-selling vehicles in the world. And people love the SUVs they drive."

GM, Ford and Toyota all have announced plans to produce more fuel-efficient SUVs, including some powered by hybrid powertrains.

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