Ford Motor Co. sees no consumer backlash developing against SUV owners, says Jan Valentic, Ford's vice president of global marketing.
For instance, consumers called "lunacy" the recent claim that SUV owners support terrorism, according to recent company research. Critics say America must buy extra gasoline from the Middle East to fuel SUVs, and the money winds up in terrorists' hands.
"They just don't see the connection," Valentic said at the NADA convention. "But that said, what I want to keep a finger on is: Do people feel guilty? Not just from a global warming perspective, but there are also safety issues. Right now, we're not seeing that.
"Those who actually owned SUVs were very adamant about choice: 'I don't want George Bush's energy policy affecting my ability to buy a vehicle that fits my needs.' "
She said consumers would like greater choices to fit those needs.
"What the customer wants is stuff that's directly related to their own personal benefit, so miles per gallon means less cost in ownership," Valentic said. "It's as much about mileage as it is about emissions."