US manufacturers say that the negative publicity aimed at sport-utility vehicles has not affected the sale of the big vehicles.

US manufacturers say that the negative publicity aimed at sport-utility vehicles has not affected the sale of the big vehicles.

According to sales figures, more than three million SUVs were sold in 2002, up from 1,1 million in 1992.

Ford conducted a survey among consumers to gauge whether the attacks on SUVs had affected their opinion of the vehicles.

CARtoday.com reported in January that the Earth Liberation Front had set a fire at a Ford, Lincoln, Mercury dealership in Pennsylvania, destroying several SUVs on New Year’s day. The group said it was fighting the sale of environmentally-unfriendly vehicles.

Ads have been aired on American television comparing the purchase of an SUV with terrorism. One of the ads shows an SUV being filled with fuel and a voiceover says that terrorists benefit every time the vehicle is filled.

Ford said it needed to know if this action was having an impact on consumers. "We wanted to know how broadly this has been infused into the bloodstream of society," Jan Valentic, Ford's vice president of global marketing, told . "We asked them if they felt guilty driving SUVs."

Valentic said most of the consumers polled said that the notion that driving SUVs contributed to terrorism "was pure lunacy".

"There are those who are affected by what they see in the news," said Bert Boeckmann, owner of a Ford dealership in Los Angeles. "Overall, though, the impact should be slight."

Mike Maroone, president and chief operating officer of Florida dealership chain AutoNation, said: "The SUV market continues to get hotter and hotter. I do not see any political or image problem with being an SUV seller."

Original article from Car