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AutoWeek Cover Story: The Truck Jihad

21 May 1998

AutoWeek Cover Story: The Truck Jihad
    DETROIT, May 20 -- The May 25, 1998 AutoWeek cover story
reports on the holy war waged in the popular press against America's love with
trucks and sport/utility vehicles.
    "Over the last year, the Gray Lady has published nearly two dozen stories
railing against what it identifies as the shortcomings of sport/utility
vehicles and trucks.  And, if you see it on the front page of The New York
Times in the morning, chances are it will be on your local TV news by supper
time.  With one media outlet after another in lock step following up the
'Killer Truck' stories, anti-SUV sentiment has spread faster that flames in an
NBC-doctored GM pickup's fuel tank."
    According to AutoWeek editor & associate publisher Dutch Mandel, "As
America's weekly automotive voice, we could not stand by to watch those who
fail to comprehend automotive passion sway public opinion based on facts that
just don't support its arguments.  It was The Times which chose to pick up the
sword against trucks and SUVs -- and it is AutoWeek's duty to not only support
car and truck passion, but also to bring fairness to the discussion."
    "The (NHTSA) data reveal that SUV/car crashes account for only about 3
percent of the total passenger-car fatalities in 1996, the last year for which
data are available.  There were more pedestrians killed that year -- 5,441 to
be exact."
    "It seems Machiavellian," asserts Charles Hughes, who as the head of Land
Rover North America has a lot at stake in the SUV storm.  "We seem to have a
back-room group plotting against a product that is extremely popular and
serves the people who buy it very well."
    Consider last Oct. 16.  The Times' front page trumpeted "Big Insurers Plan
to Increase Rates on Large Vehicles."  Oh really? asks Mike LaMonica, vice
president in charge of pricing for Allstate, the nation's largest auto
insurer: "SUV owners are already paying the premium they should be paying."
LaMonica says that, although a few insurers, notably Farmers Insurance's
Pennsylvania operations, have raised rates slightly, Allstate has no plans to
do so.
    AutoWeek contacted 32 New York Times senior editorial executives,
managers, and editors, and asked what kind of vehicle they drive or own.  A
total of 10 responded.  Of the respondents, half commute by either train or
subway.  This is New York City we're talking about.  As one editor said when
we asked what he drives: "You would be mad to drive here... it's vastly
inconvenient."  These are the opinion-makers leading America's media down the
wrong path.
    Full text of the story is available on AutoWeek's website at (This Weeks Issue, 5/25 press release, "AutoWeek" as login
and password).
    AutoWeek, published by Crain Communications Inc., is the nation's only
weekly automotive enthusiast consumer magazine:  AutoWeek is located in
Detroit, Mich., and has a circulation of 295,000.