DETROIT PROJECT -- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Talk about the origin and genesis of this idea.
idea for The Detroit Project came to co-founder Arianna Huffington
while she was watching one of those outrageous drug war ads the
Bush administration has flooded the airwaves with. You know, the
ones that try and link using drugs to financing terrorism. Instead
of shaking her head in disgust and reaching for the Mute button,
Arianna decided to channel her indignation. Why not turn the tables
and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug
war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs
and our national security?
then wrote a column posing the possibility for such an ad campaign
and was overwhelmed by the response: over 5,000 e-mails from people
ranging from businessmen to students, including people out of work,
offering to make a contribution to get these ads on the air.
began our campaign to create a series of TV ads designed to win
the hearts and minds -- and change the driving habits -- of American
consumers by asking them to connect the dots and think about the
effect energy wastefulness is having not just on the environment,
but on our foreign policy.
Why do you call yourself "The Detroit Project?"
wanted to evoke the sense of shared national sacrifice -- of joining
together to achieve an ambitious goal -- that accompanied the Manhattan
Project during World War II. That historic wartime effort enlisted
the greatest scientific and technical minds in the country to help
protect us from the tyranny of fascism. Now, as we fight the war
on terrorism, we need to commit the same all-out effort to freeing
ourselves from the nations and terrorists holding us hostage through
our addiction to oil.
Detroit Project is about more than just getting people to give up
their SUVs. It's about coming together as a nation to put an end
to our destructive and short-sighted dependence on oil, especially
foreign oil from the Middle East.
is once again time for this country to summon the strength, the
spirit and the drive that have defined the turning points of this
Why are you picking on SUVs? Aren't limousines also guilty of getting
low gas mileage?
are 16 million SUVs in the United States and 50,000 limos. Do the
math, and sure, by all means, give up the limos too.
There's another anti-SUV group asking "What Would Jesus Drive?"
Well, Jesus was a carpenter. Wouldn't he be driving a full-sized
pick-up truck that's every bit as inefficient as a large SUV?
don't have a problem with trucks used for commercial purposes, but
only 28 percent of them are used for that reason. That's a major
problem. We've chosen to focus on SUVs because they are not a necessity.
For instance, just 5 percent of SUVs are used off-road.
But won't lighter more fuel-efficient cars mean a reduction in safety?
are actually very risky to drive: four times more likely than cars
to roll over in an accident and three times more likely to kill
the occupants in a rollover.
to Keith Bradsher of the New York Times, the occupant death rate
in SUVs is 6 percent higher than it is for cars -- 8 percent higher
in the largest SUVs.
SUVs are not just more dangerous for the people inside them, they
are proving lethally unsafe for the rest of us: about 1,000 more
people die each year in cars hit by SUVs than would have died if
the cars had been hit by other cars. Government research has found
that massive SUVs, like the four-ton Chevy Tahoe, kill 122 people
for every 1 million models on the road, compared to a car like the
Honda Accord that kills 21 for every million on the road. And the
injuries in SUV-related accidents are more severe.
Isn't the industry just responding to consumer demand?
the industry has created the demand. SUV advertising rose from $172.5
million in 1990 to $1.51 billion in 2000. Watch a Ford or Dodge
commercial and you'd think it's vaguely un-American not to own a
big car or truck.
The United States only imports 12 percent of its oil from the Middle
a big 12 percent. The US imports 2.5 million barrels of oil a day
from the Middle East. And Saudi Arabia is our second largest foreign
supplier of oil. And at least partly to protect the oil, the US
spends $60 billion a year to maintain our military presence in the
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are supporting our war on terrorism. So
what's wrong with supporting them?
Saudi Arabia, the money you spend at the pump over here pays for
a feudal monarchy that gorges itself on excess while bankrolling
terrorist mischief abroad with its support of suicide bombers and
the "charitable contributions" that ended up in the pockets
of 9/11 hijackers. There is no question that our kid glove treatment
of the spoiled princes of Saudi Arabia is prompted by our dependence
on their oil.
There's a huge variety of SUVs on the market right now. Some are
large, some are small, some are medium-sized. Not everyone is to
don't want to demonize anyone. Arianna herself was driving an SUV
up until a year ago, a gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator that got 13
miles per gallon. It was the horror of 9/11, and the persuasion
of her friend and Detroit Project co-founder Laurie David, that
convinced her to give up her SUV. Like Laurie, Arianna now drives
a 52 miles per gallon Toyota Prius. And they both can transport
their kids to school without any problem.
A Toyota Prius is a fine car, but it barely holds four people. It
doesn't work for everybody. If you have a boat, if you want to tow
something, if you have two kids and want to carry the neighborhood
kids someplace else you need a larger vehicle.
are other options: in the short term, minivans are safer, more fuel-efficient,
and cause less pollution than SUVs. Same with a family station wagon,
which consumes at least 6 fewer miles per gallon than an SUV. No
small difference when you consider that an improvement of just 3
mpg nationwide would save 1 million barrels of oil per day.
in the long term, automakers are perfectly capable of producing
hybrid SUVs that get 40-45 miles per gallon.
What about the Bush Administration's proposed increase of 1.5 mpg?
steadfastly opposing any raise in fuel efficiency standards, the
Bush administration let it be known in November that it is considering
a proposal to increase the standard for light trucks and SUVs by
1.5 miles per gallon by 2007.
Team Bush hailed the proposed boost as a major victory in the battle
for energy independence, Sen. John Kerry, who along with Sen. John
McCain last spring proposed raising the SUV standard by 50 percent,
called the 7 percent increase "window dressing." Others
labeled it "political theater" and "almost an insult
in its modesty."
Why don't SUVs have to meet the same federal fuel economy standards
of passenger cars?
trucks and SUVs are currently allowed to average 7 mpg less than
cars. This exemption is a holdover from the Ford administration,
and was meant to help America's farmers amid the oil embargo. But
the oil embargo is well in the past, and SUVs and light trucks now
account for more than half of all new vehicles sold.
how's this for absurd: if an SUV is massive enough, it's entirely
exempt from federal fuel economy standards. That's right, build
one with a gross vehicle weight of over 8,500 pounds -- like the
Ford Excursion or the Hummer -- and the leviathan's lousy gas mileage
doesn't even have to be reported to the government.
on that one and see if it doesn't rev your engine: automakers are
rewarded for being particularly inefficient. There's the Bush Free
Market for you.
If Europeans want to drive Fiats and Mini Coopers, fine. But this
is America. Standing on the Senate floor before an enlarged photo
of a tiny, purple, one-seat European car, Trent Lott said in March
2002, "I don't want Americans to have to drive this car."
And many people agree with Trent Lott.
much for Lott's faith in American ingenuity. The notion that the
U.S. automobile manufacturing industry is staffed by inept managers
and employees incapable of figuring out how to increase fuel efficiency
without compromising comfort and practicality is preposterous.
How much money do hybrid owners save at the gas pump?
If Americans turned in their SUVs for a hybrid, on average they
would save $1,000 a year on gasoline alone. Compare that to the
$300 tax rebate for every American that President Bush made such
a big deal of.
What about tax credits?
qualify for a tax credit of a few thousand dollars. In contrast,
deductions of up to $25,000 are available to those who purchase
SUVs weighing more than 6,000 pounds. The Hummer is one of 38 SUVs
that qualify for this ludicrous loophole, which experts estimate
could be costing the federal Treasury close to a billion dollars
How quickly are SUVs selling?
SUV sales, in a time of war, were up six percent in 2002. Think
of that: a six percent increase in vehicles that virtually guarantee
our continued inability to thumb our noses at oily Persian Gulf
potentates. With slogans like "Keep America rolling,"
Detroit is offering no down payments or finance charges on many
SUV models. GM, for instance, enhanced its "Zero, Zero, Zero"
program in December by offering no-interest financing on 13 SUVs
for up to 60 months.
Prototype hybrid SUVs were unveiled at the recent Detroit Auto Show,
and GM announced plans to have a million hybrid vehicles for sale
by 2007. So aren't automakers already doing the right things?
real question is: how serious is Detroit about promoting hybrid
cars? It's one thing to make a big show of rolling out glittering
"concept models" intended for future production and quite
another to commit the advertising and marketing resources necessary
to ensure that the industry's embrace of hybrid technology isn't
just a here-today-gone-tomorrow defensive gambit for the PR cameras.
said it would have those million hybrids for sale by 2007 if demand
is high. Well, carmakers spent billions convincing Americans to
buy gas-guzzling SUVs. Will they do the same for hybrids? Or will
they under-advertise them, allow them to crash and burn, then point
to the failure as yet more "proof" that American consumers
don't really care about anything other than their precious SUVs?
powered by a combination of gas and electricity have been around
since 1905, when the Woods Motor Vehicle Co. offered a dual-powered
model. Clearly, Detroit is responding to a shift in public opinion
-- but is playing catch up with Toyota and Honda, which have been
putting out hybrid cars since 1997. How ironic that if American
car buyers want to do something truly patriotic right now, they
have to buy Japanese to do it.
Some TV stations are refusing to run your ads. What do you think
is not only an outrageous affront to the First Amendment, it's also
illogical and bizarre since many of these same stations continue
to run the drug war ads our ads parody. What's the difference: that
ours were paid for by contributions from ordinary citizens, while
theirs were paid for by taking money from taxpayers? Or that the
drug ads have been stamped with the Bush administration's seal of
approval? Or is that automakers are TV's biggest advertisers?
what we want to know: What are they so afraid of?