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Spoof of SUVs

Godzilla SUV!


Crushed Under the Weight
of America's Newest Craze: The SUV


The SUV is one of the most popular vehicles ever. It has become a common figure on America's roads, from downtown Manhattan to the winding highways of the Rocky Mountains. Americans purchased 3.36 million of them last year. What is so incredible about this figure is that SUVs are notoriously unsafe , they cost more than other vehicles, and they pollute more than other vehicles.


In rollover tests SUVs are shockingly very poor scorers. Some reports have suggested that year 2000 SUVs would rollover in at least 20% of accidents they're involved in. In a case from 1997, a woman's tire blew out while driving on the freeway. Her SUV, a Ford Explorer, rolled four times. In the crash, the woman's leg was crushed , the tibia shattered into a hundred pieces. She had to have a knee replacement. She has four plates in her arm held in place by screws that she can feel through the skin. Sounds pretty bad, yes? In all actuality, she is lucky to be alive.

The NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, estimates that approximately 9,700 Americans will die this year as a result of SUV and truck rollovers. Rollover crashes accounted for 53 percent of all SUV occupant deaths in single vehicle crashes in 1996.

Ford's Explorer (prior to 2001) was built on the base of the Ford pick-up truck. This meant that a taller and heavier body would be riding on a frame designed for a pick-up truck. The result was that the center of gravity for the Explorer is higher than that of a Ford pick-up truck. This caused the Explorer to be top heavy and prone to rolling over at high speeds . This propensity was kept from the public. An internal Ford safety report stated that the best course of action would be to widen the wheelbase and improve the suspension system. Instead, Ford recommended to car dealers that Explorer tires be under inflated to more stability. We'll get to the resulting problems with this decision later.

What happens when an SUV is in a collision with a smaller vehicle? SUVs crush smaller-sized cars. That is understandable with the huge size difference between SUVs and smaller vehicles. Think about the Ford Excursion. It is 19 feet long and weighs 8500 pounds . The Ford Focus hatchback weights 2500 lbs. and is 14 feet in length. Imagine what is going to happen when an Excursion hits a Focus.

Not only is the size and weight of the SUVs a danger; the design also makes for considerably higher damage and fatality than in comparably sized sedans, like the Ford Taurus. SUVs are designed to be eight inches higher than a car. They also have a more rigid frame that consists of two steel rails. The front end of the SUV, being 8 inches higher and; in the case of the Ford Explorer; curved upwards; acts like a snowboard on a mogul. The SUV hits a car and is propelled up and onto it, crushing the occupants of the car. But, the occupants of the SUV are going to come out pretty okay. That is, unless they tip over which could be the case according to tests by the NHTSA.

Since the Excursion's size will undoubtedly be a serious health hazard for the occupants of smaller vehicles (meaning 99% of the cars on the road), Ford added a front beam and a rear tow hitch to prevent other vehicles from sliding under the Excursion. Being the largest SUV, the Excursion could be extremely dangerous in an accident with a smaller vehicle since almost every vehicle on the road is smaller.

Alongside these issues is the fact that Ford and Firestone companies withheld information about their products that could have saved lives. From the inception of the Explorer in the mid-'80s to the now widely publicized court cases, Ford and Firestone have systematically tried to get around a manufacturing problem that has ultimately lead to the deaths at least 150 drivers .


Consumers simply pay more for an SUV than other vehicles. They pay more because SUVs are in vogue right now. They pay more because SUVs are more expensive to repair. They pay more because SUVs are fuel inefficient. They pay more because insurance recognizes SUV's inherent risk to other vehicles.

The profits from an SUV sale range from $12,000 to $20,000. A normal car is more like $3,000. Why the huge difference? It probably has something to do with Americans and their egos. The more powerful and masculine looking your car, the more powerful and masculine the driver looks. At least that's what the driver may think. What about the fact that SUVs are less fuel efficient and potentially deadly to others? Should we tack on the titles of "less efficient" and " potential killer " to "powerful" and "masculine"? How about "stupid"? The cost of repairs to an SUV far exceeds those of other cars.

Imagine paying $5,000 - $6,000 for a new bumper. In a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety some SUVs could incur very expensive damage in collisions at "walking speed" or five miles per hour. Example of the results: The Jeep Grand Cherokee cost $5,107 to repair. The Mitsubishi Montero Sport cost $6,282 to fix. The best SUV tested, the Mercedes ML 320, came in at just under $3,000 to repair. Repair costs for power steering, the alternator, fuel injection, starter, and other car parts for SUVs are also more expensive than in smaller cars. The reason for this greater expense is that SUVs do not have the same federal standards that smaller passenger cars, which are required to have reinforced bumpers, have. This means that the bumpers are made with less expensive materials and just crumble when hit, causing extensive damage.

Taxpayers also have to endure an added burden because of the increase in SUV sales. A tax called the "gas guzzler tax" adds higher taxes to less fuel-efficient vehicles. But SUVs pay no tax. The tax loophole means that automakers get a free reign to build and market inefficient, polluting vehicles . Does that mean that the automakers pass that savings onto the buyer? No. The automakers keep that savings for themselves. The estimated loss of tax revenue is $1.1 billion.


The average new car gets about 28 miles per gallon on the highway. The average SUV gets 20 mpg. Some models get only 12-16 mpg. This means you will spend much more money on gasoline. Do you really want to be supporting the oil industry any more than you already are? Probably not considering the hazards the oil industry poses to human and animal life - think Exxon Valdez or the Tosco refinery explosion in Martinez, CA that killed one worker and injured 46. Since 1990, the inefficiency of light trucks (including SUVs) has led to Americans wasting an extra 70 billion gallons of gasoline.

Under federal law SUVs are allowed to emit higher levels of toxic and noxious pollution - carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. Sport utility vehicles can spew 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than passenger cars.

According to Ford Motor Co., 87 percent of Ford Explorer owners have never taken their vehicle off-road. Why do you need to have an off-road vehicle if you are never going to use that feature? This feature adds unnecessary weight to SUVs. More weight means more fuel used. Some drivers might retort that having the 4-wheel drive provides more safety in bad weather conditions such as snow or heavy rain. That is untrue. The 4-wheel drive feature simply makes it easier to get out of snow, sand or mud when the vehicle is stuck. It does not add to the driver's ability to negotiate through hazardous road conditions.

On the flip side, Ford is moving towards a better environmental record with its SUVs. They are pushing to be ahead of schedule to met new emissions limits, and will install hybrid engines in the 2004 models of their light SUV, the Escape. They also ended their support of the Global Climate Coalition, "a Washington based group that argues there is insufficient scientific evidence to confirm serious warming of the earth due to so-called 'greenhouse' gases".


Alongside the problems SUVs face is another, more ominous one: tire separation. Over 150 Americans have died in this occurrence. What happens is that the tire glue fails to keep the tire together. Having the Firestone tires under inflated to compensate for the rollover propensity of the Explore makes the occurrence even more likely. The tire peels like a banana, the car jerks suddenly with the new imbalance and rolls. Did either company know about this prior to the court cases in the late '90s? Yes, they did.

In a memo dated February 9, 1989 Ford was informed that tire separation occurred when the tire was under inflated. Firestone conducted its own tests and declared the tires to be fine.

So what happened? As more and more cases from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela (two of the Explorer's big buyers) came in regarding tire failures and passenger fatalities, Ford and Firestone began to see that the problem was getting out of control. But they kept all away from the American car buyers. They secretly replaced the tires but did nothing in the U.S. They waited until public outcry in the form of lawsuits before they acknowledged any possible wrongdoing.


As you can see, the SUV industry is handing us a very pretty lemon. They are appealing to our egos and our vanity. They are expecting us buy these horrible things because of their incredibly attractive advertisement campaigns.

--Send a message to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency telling them not to back down on new rules to clean up sport utility vehicles.

Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

--Send a message to the head of Ford telling them that you want zero-emission cars, NOW! As a young adult, you will most likely be purchasing cars during your long life. You want zero-emission cars . The technology is there. Make the cars and we will buy them. This is about showing there is a demand.

Ford Motor Company Customer Relationship Center
P.O. Box 6248
Dearborn, MI 48126

--Buy a hybrid car:

Check out Hybrid cars at:

How Stuff Works Website

The Story of the Hybrid Car

The Official Site of Hybrid Cars

The most important thing is to be informed. Don't just let people sell you something because they make it look good in a multi-million dollar ad campaign. Stand up for your right to choose for yourself. Get all the facts and Make A Difference.

The Team


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephanie - Watch as the largest oil company crumbles at my feet!
Daphne - We've got borax. We've got rat feces. We've got America's meat factories
Stephen - All that and more. Say hello to Trekker Stephen!
Jennifer - A suitcase full of travels! It's Trekker Jennifer
Rebecca - How would you like that community? Sunny-side up?
Stephen - When Americans could live together in solidarity
Stephanie - Triangle Shirt Factory #9 going up in flames!