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Pro-SUV Group Answers Detractors

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DETROIT The Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America (SUVOA) has an answer to the "What would Jesus drive?" question posed by an anti-SUV group in ads last November.

A full-page ad running Monday in USA Today editions in Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., features Jesus Rivera and his family, who claim to love their 1995 SUV. Rivera's hometown and the exact make of the SUV are not revealed, said Jason Vines, president of the SUVOA.

The execution was created by Stratacomm, an automotive public relations company with offices in Troy, Mich., and Washington, D.C. Vines is one of the principals at the company. SUVOA paid $17,000 for the creation of the ad and the media placement, Vines said. The budget was culled from revenue generated by the group's Web site, on which several automakers have placed ads.

Copy points out that Rivera is not alone in his affection for his SUV: "Jesus Rivera drives an SUV along with 24 million other Americans who rely on their SUVs to carpool friends and family; tow boats, campers and trailers; haul home improvement supplies; and volunteer to take people to the hospital in snow emergencies."

The group hopes to run more ads in the future as funds become available.

The SUVOA describes itself as a "non-profit consumer organization dedicated to supporting the rights and serving the interests of SUV owners." The group was founded in 1999 and currently has about 3,500 members nationwide. Part of the goal of the ad is to increase membership, Vines said.

A coalition of religious and environmental groups funded an ad campaign with the "What Would Jesus Drive?" theme to encourage consumers to abandon their gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and choose more earth-friendly vehicles [Adweek Online, Nov. 20, 2002]. The $65,000 campaign was backed by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), a Wynnewood, Penn.-based group of organizations and individuals whose purpose is "to declare the Lordship of Christ over all creation," according to the Web site www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org.