Jesus Drives an SUV; SUV Owners of America Ad Solves 'Mystery'

WASHINGTON, July 14 -- Because a new anti-SUV group has been asking the question, "What Would Jesus Drive?", the SUV Owners of America (SUVOA) today unveiled a stunning revelation that Jesus (pronounced he SOOS) drives a 1995 SUV! And his son drives a 1999 SUV! The announcement, appearing in a full-page advertisement in regional issues of USA Today, explains why Jesus Rivera and his family love their SUVs and why they are not alone.

"Jesus Rivera is just one real-life example of the 24 million SUV owners in this country that appreciate the safety, utility and versatility of their vehicles," said SUVOA President Jason H. Vines. "The argument that 'people don't need SUVs' usually is espoused by self-appointed, fact-challenged 'experts' who have no appreciation for people's work, home, and lifestyle circumstances other than their own."

"The 'What Would Jesus Drive?' campaign arrogantly assumes that the Gospel supports its debatable political goals," said Father Robert Sirico, the proud owner of an SUV and president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty.

"The first obligation of a Christian is to answer the Gospel's call for personal conversion," Fr. Sirico said. "Unfortunately, the anti-SUV crowd is much more interested in promoting a 'green' agenda than it is in serious theological reflection."

Formed in 1999 and turbocharged in May 2003 with an information-rich web site (suvoa.com ) and a board of directors representing recreation and small business interests, SUVOA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the rights and serving the interests of 24 million SUV owners in the United States. SUVOA is the voice of and advocate for SUV owners with media and federal/state government policymakers. SUVOA defends SUVs and their owners from unfounded attacks by special interest groups and unwarranted government regulation. "We are asking SUV owners who are upset at being demonized, vandalized and discriminated against to pull together by joining the SUVOA army," said Vines.

According to SUVOA, the attacks on SUVs and SUV owners are coming from a handful of small but vocal groups who often distort the factual record of SUVs regarding safety, the environment and their use. Their documented tactics range from seemingly harmless, self-described satire to vicious activities that have put the lives of people, including public servants, at risk. "No vehicle has been demonized this much since Stephen King turned a Plymouth into Christine," said Vines.

"While we believe these groups do not condone such activity, those who have generated the greatest amount of media coverage are creating an atmosphere where it is open season on SUV owners and their vehicles," said Vines. "The statements they make and the ads they run give comfort and justification to those who voice their opinion with a gas can and a lighted match or by smearing an owner's vehicle with animal waste."

Anti-SUV groups also are often rich in hyperbole and light on science to back up their claims. As an example, Public Citizen -- a so-called consumer group -- held a press conference in June to mislead the public into thinking that SUVs are dangerous killers. Unfortunately, what the media missed was the "devilish details" in their press kit that included a listing of the "most risky" vehicles. Of the top 10 "most risky" vehicles in the study cited, only one is a SUV and it happens to be one of the lowest-selling SUVs. The majority -- nine out of 10 of the supposedly "most risky vehicles" -- are small cars and pickups, not SUVs.

"The truth is the largest of the SUVs have the lowest fatality rate according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- end of story," said Vines.

Today's SUVOA ad featuring Jesus Rivera points out that he is not alone in his affection for his SUV: "Jesus Rivera drives an SUV along with 24 million other Americans who rely on their SUVs to carpool friends and family; tow boats, campers and trailers; haul home improvement supplies; and volunteer to take people to the hospital in snow emergencies."

Here are the facts:

* Americans rely heavily on the versatility of their SUVs. About half of the respondents in a recent poll use their SUV regularly to haul around tools, appliances and other bulky items that just won't fit into cars. (Source: R.L. Polk and Co.)

* During heavy snows and floods, hospitals often put out the call for volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles (most of which are SUVs) to transport patients and to help doctors and nurses get to work.

* Americans enjoy the fruits of their labor with almost 24 million boats, ATVs, horse trailers, towed RVs, snowmobiles and off-road motorcycles. And the vehicles moving most of these leisure machines are SUVs and other light trucks, because today fewer than six percent of passenger cars can tow more than 2,100 pounds.

* SUVs do have a higher center of gravity and therefore can roll over more easily. However, rollover crashes are relatively rare when compared to all other types of crashes. Federal government and insurance industry safety data show that SUVs are considerably more protective of their occupants than the average passenger car in the most common types of crashes -- front, side and rear, which make up 97 percent of all crashes. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA - 2002 FARS data.) The fact is that no one gets to pick the kind of crash they could be in, so it's best to choose a vehicle that offers the best protection in the most common situations we face in our daily driving.

* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) November 2002 report on fatality rates showed the following occupant fatalities per million registered passenger vehicles, 1 to 3 years old, in all crashes:

       All Cars    124
       All SUVs    115 (8 percent fewer than cars)

According to IIHS, driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles, 1 to 3 years old, in all crashes, show SUVs as a class fare much better than cars as a class, while the large SUVs are the safest of all vehicles:

      Small Cars    109
      Midsize Cars   77
      Large Cars     63
      All Cars       83
      All SUVs       65
      Large SUVs     61

(Source: http://search.hwysafety.org/safety_facts/fatality_facts/passveh.htm )

* Since the mid-1970s, the fuel economy of SUVs and light trucks has improved by nearly 60 percent. Virtually all SUV owners, like all vehicle owners, want even better fuel economy. However, while peer-reviewed studies have shown that improved fuel economy is possible, it comes with tradeoffs that most consumers are not willing to accept (e.g., higher cost, diminished performance and utility, and reduced crash protection).

* Replacing all of the SUVs to be sold in 2003 with passenger cars would save one day's worth of oil in this country. But, because SUVs are more protective of their occupants in the vast majority of crashes compared to cars, the death rate on our nation's highways would unquestionably increase.

* In terms of tailpipe emissions, many SUVs and trucks today already meet the same stringent federal emissions standards as cars; and over the next few years, by law, the difference between car emissions and light truck (SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans) emissions will completely disappear. In 2004 model year production, which is beginning now, the vast majority of SUVs that haven't already done so will match federal car emissions by being 99 percent clean.

* A 2004 Ford Explorer or Chevy Trailblazer, two of the most popular SUVs, will pollute less driven from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and back to Washington, D.C. than a 1967 station wagon driven one-way from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore.

* The progress on SUV and light truck emissions reduction has been swift and dramatic. The emissions from a new midsize SUV, the most popular SUVs in America, are cleaner today than those of the average passenger cars still on the road today that were built just three years ago.

* For the first time ever, SUVs have captured the overall market share lead among female new vehicle buyers, according to a 2003 analysis by R.L. Polk and Co.

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