Consumers Believe SUV Criticism Is Hype According to New Study



       New Poll of In-Market Car Buyers Reveals Consumer Views of SUVs,
                             Media and Terrorism

    IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 11 -- A New Vehicle-Buyer Attitude Study
on SUVs released today shows more than half of its respondents feel the
negative press around SUVs is hype and more than 70 percent felt that groups
criticizing SUVs ignored the vehicle's positive aspects.  The study was
conducted by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), the trusted resource for used and new car
information.
    Journalist Arianna Huffington, activist group Earth Liberation Front, and
Chairman of the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA),
Jeffrey W. Runge, have said that SUV owners are making our country oil
dependent and creating unsafe highways, and in extreme cases -- claiming
consumers purchasing SUVs support terrorism.  Other statements imply that SUV
drivers are vain, self-absorbed and have little interest in their community.
NHTSA's Runge urged consumers in a Jan. 15 speech to 'educate themselves'
before purchasing these rollover prone vehicles.  The Kelley Blue Book study
shows six out of 10 shoppers still feel positively toward SUVs and of those
considering an SUV the number rises to eight out of 10.
    Currently, large utility vehicles account for most of the manufacturer's
annual earnings.  The negative comments have auto manufacturers worried that
consumer demand for the SUVs would decline.  While sales of SUVs declined one-
tenth of a percent in January, analysts say the drop is minor in comparison to
the overall decline in vehicle sales last month.
    When it comes to the attitudes of current car shoppers, survey results
show that manufacturers have little to worry about at this time.  Based on the
study results, rollover statements made by Runge may be the only issue
reaching consumers.  The Kelley Blue Book study shows shoppers rank rollovers
as their No. 1 concern in purchasing an SUV.  Four out of 10 surveyed say that
concerns of rollovers could even keep them from buying an SUV, yet more than
half rate the vehicles high for safety.
    "We have not seen an effect on SUV values or sales due to recent news.
Any effect thus far can be attributed to uncertainty in the economy," said
Charlie Vogelheim, Executive Editor, Kelley Blue Book.  "We do expect to see a
drop among larger SUVs but attribute the decline to market saturation as well
as the growth and popularity of crossover vehicles, not necessarily criticism
or hype."
    The other issues appear to have been dismissed by in-market car-buyers.
Kelley Blue Book survey respondents, who represent the opinions of one out of
every four new car-buyers in America, disagree with the assertion that SUV
drivers are vain and have little interest in their community.  Results show
the No. 1 attribute assigned to SUV drivers is "family oriented" with "safety
oriented" coming in at number three out of 12 attributes.  Few shoppers
believe SUV drivers are selfish or irresponsible.
    With the looming possibility of war, oil dependency issues have become a
major topic in the press, but those currently shopping for SUVs ranked
environmental concerns and oil dependency issues last among their concerns in
buying an SUV.  In-market car-buyers understand SUVs are less fuel efficient
than compact vehicles, however it does not appear to be a deterrent to
purchase.
    "America saw a major decline in vehicle sales and values during 1991's
Gulf War.  We expect to see similar trends and a drop in SUV values should we
go to war in coming weeks," said Vogelheim.
    The issue of terrorism arose in the press through journalist Huffington,
as well as activist group Earth Liberation Front (ELF).  The ELF organization,
religious groups and Hollywood celebrities link gas-guzzling vehicles to oil
dependence on the Middle-East and the support of terrorism.  The groups point
out that U.S. oil imports have increased 60 percent since the Gulf War.  On
terrorism, only one in 10 survey participants felt purchasing an SUV actually
supported terrorism.
    The KBB New Vehicle-Buyer Attitude Study on SUVs was administered on the
company's Web site http://www.kbb.com , the No. 1 Internet site among car-buyers who
are within 90-days of purchasing a new vehicle.  Survey respondents include
those considering buying an SUV as well as those that are not.  The study was
completed over a four-day period at the end of January 2003 to determine the
attitudes and views of SUVs amidst heavy criticism of the vehicle segment by
influencers.
    "The targeted nature of our visitor base allows Kelley Blue Book to
uncover factors important to in-market car buyers in the middle of their
purchase decision process," said Rick Wainschel, Director of Marketing
Research at Kelley Blue Book.
    For more information on future KBB New Vehicle-Buyer Attitude Studies or
the complete results of this study, please contact Robyn Eckard at
949-770-7704 x8349.

    About Kelley Blue Book
    Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com has been named first visited and No. 1
automotive site according to J.D. Power and Associates five years running and
is the most trusted vehicle information resource, providing comprehensive
automotive research tools and up-to-date pricing on thousands of used and new
vehicles.  Since 1926, car buyers and sellers have relied upon Kelley Blue
Book for timely and accurate information to make well-informed automotive
decisions.  The company also offers objective vehicle pricing via products and
services for both the auto industry and consumers, including the famous Blue
Book Official Guide, software and the Internet.  Rated No. 1 automotive
information site by Nielsen//NetRatings, no other medium reaches more in-
market car-buyers than kbb.com; one in every four people who purchase vehicles
visit Kelley Blue Book.

    Safe Harbour Statement
    This release contains factual data from recent news reports as well as a
Kelley Blue Book New Vehicle-Buyer Attitude Study and does not reflect the
opinions of Kelley Blue Book employees, management or any person associated
with the company.  The data presented herein reflects only the attitudes and
opinions of consumers and in-market car-buyers participating in the online
survey.
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