An environmental group has designed a safer, more fuel-efficient Sport Utility Vehicle. Now, it’s trying to get you to write the government to get the big automakers to make SUVs a lot like the one it designed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
An environmental group has designed a safer, more fuel efficient Sport Utility Vehicle. Now, it’s
trying to get you to write the government to get the big automakers to make SUVs a lot like the
one it designed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The environmental group, the Union of Concerned Scientists started with a Ford Explorer and
then looked at ways to improve the SUV to solve what the group saw as some design
“The Union of Concerned Scientists has developed a blueprint for a safer and more fuel efficient
On its website, the group lists about a dozen improvements to the SUV ranging from better,
stronger materials to keep passengers safer during a rollover to engine and transmission designs
that would mean much better gas mileage.
David Friedman is the Research Director for the Clean Vehicle Program at the Union of
Concerned Scientists. He says consumers should have those choices.
“When you step into a showroom, sure, you can choose the cup holders, you can choose the color
of your SUV. But, you can’t choose the fuel economy. You’re stuck between 16, 17, 18 miles
per gallon. What we’re talking about is taking technologies that the automakers already have to
save thousands of lives every year and to save on the order of $2,500 on fuel.”
Friedman says all the options the Union of Concerned Scientists have suggested are off-the-shelf
The auto industry says those options are available in SUVs. But nobody’s asking for them. Eron
Shosteck is a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association.
Shosteck says most people want more cargo space, more power, and more towing capacity from
their SUVs. They’re not clamoring for the added safety and efficiency features that the
environmentalists are pushing.
“For consumers who wish to have better fuel economy than other attributes, automakers offer
more than 30 different models of vehicles that get 30 miles per gallon or better. They are very
That statement sounds a lot like a video cartoon satire of the auto industry on the Union of
Concerned Scientists website, SUV-TV.org.
“Look, if you want fuel economy, go drive a compact.”
The auto industry is portrayed as a cigar puffing fat cat who offers lots of excuses for why SUVs
have to be made the way they’re made. The cartoon declares satirically it’s all because “Industry
The auto industry actually says the chief reason SUVs are made the way they’re made is: that’s
what consumers want.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Friedman says he doesn’t see it that way.
“They’re saying they’re responding to the marketplace, but when consumers say they want an
SUV that gets higher fuel economy, they literally do tell them to go drive a compact.”
So, the Union of Concerned Scientists is launching a campaign called the SUV-TV Challenge.
It’s trying to get 50-thousand people to visit the website and then write to the government and
automakers, demanding better fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and other vehicles.
“Well, what we’re trying to do is show consumers they have a choice and have consumers contact
the U.S. government, who’s responsible for taking care of consumers, and let them know they
want better SUVs. They want a real choice when they step into the showroom.”
The auto industry says those choices are there if you order them. But most people buy vehicles
on the showroom floor. The Auto Alliance’s Eron Shosteck says the demand for the SUVs there
“We respond to consumer demand, not to publicity stunts by special interest groups.”
The environmentalists hope demands for safety and fuel efficiency are felt through the SUV-TV
challenge. But the real demand for fuel efficiency is more likely to come from rising prices at the
pump, which are expected to reach record highs this summer.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.