Saturday, November 27, 1999

Group says SUVs,
Hawaii don’t mix

By Crystal Kua


The sport utility vehicle conjures up images of off-road adventures through the rough and rugged terrain of America's backcountry.

It sounds like an automobile compatible with Hawaii's outdoor lifestyle, right?

Not, says the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club. Sport utility vehicles -- or SUVs as they are commonly known -- are gas-guzzling polluters that are hazardous to Hawaii's environment and deadly to occupants of smaller cars during an accident, the environmental watchdog group said.

"We're just seeing more sport utility and large vehicles on the road in Hawaii," Hawaii chapter director Jeff Mikaluna said. "It's even more important for us to examine these things."

The Sierra Club planned to explain its position today on the sidewalk fronting the Honolulu Ford new car dealership on Ala Moana in part because of Ford's recent introduction of its newest SUV, the Excursion, a 4-ton vehicle with a big V-8 engine and nine seats. "It gets 11 miles to the gallon," Mikaluna said.

Wins 'Exxon Valdez' award

The Sierra Club earlier this year named the Ford Co. as the recipient of its "Exxon Valdez" Award, a reference to the tanker spill that caused environmental havoc in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989, recognizing the Excursion as destructive to the environment.

The Sierra Club also planned today to counsel potential SUV buyers in front of the Honolulu Ford dealership on why sport utility vehicles don't fit in Hawaii.

Honolulu Ford personnel referred questions to dealership President Dave Chun, who was not available for comment yesterday.

But industry publications and an Excursion brochure provided by the dealership tried to counter the allegations.

Ford has said the Excursion sets "a bold new standard for safety and the environment." A brochure said that "nearly one-fifth of every Excursion is made of recycled steel, aluminum, rubber and plastic."

Mikaluna said the Sierra Club hoped to make potential car buyers aware of the issues surrounding SUVs

People are turning to SUVs because gasoline is cheaper and owning a sports utility vehicle evokes an image. "More and more people are using their autos to represent who they are," he said.

Mikaluna said the majority of SUVs don't leave paved streets. "When they do, they chew up the environment and destroy habitat."

He said that more fuel emissions mean more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the average American automobile, "fuel efficiency decreased by 8 percent from 1990 to 1997," Mikaluna said.

Emissions ratings touted

Ford said the Excursion meets "strict low emissions vehicle ratings ... (and) will emit fewer smog forming emissions than mandated by law."

Ford said it joined the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to encourage "treading lightly" in national forests and public and private lands.

Calls them 'super brutes'

Mikaluna also said sport utility vehicles can cause deadly results in accidents with smaller cars. "They are really jeopardizing more people's lives on the road."

But Ford said the Excursion comes with a device that prevents a small car from sliding beneath the higher-riding Excursion in a frontal crash.

Mikaluna said there are alternatives to these types of sport utility vehicles. "You don't need these super brutes."

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