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KAI RYSSDAL: The 2007 summer driving season officially kicked off today. Something you don't need us to tell you if you're stuck in traffic. Detroit's paying special attention to all that driving. Carmakers are set to launch an interesting new ad campaign tomorrow. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.
ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: The million-dollar campaign will run in 11 states including Colorado and Wisconsin. It comes as senators prepare to consider a bill that would raise fuel economy standards by 40 percent. One of the ads features two young mothers:
FIRST MOTHER: Hey, how do you like your car?
SECOND MOTHER: Oh, I love it. I know it's a little bigger than others, but we really feel safe in it.
The first mother tells her friend she probably won't be able to buy a similar model in future because, she says, automakers will soon be forced to build smaller cars.
DAVID FRIEDMAN: The auto industry is basically playing upon people's worst fears, and it's really reprehensible.
That's David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says plenty of research shows . . .
FRIEDMAN: That bigger is not necessarily better. Heavier could actually be more dangerous. And the technology exists to increase fuel economy without having any impact on safety.
David Kushma is a senior editor at Automotive News. He says the automotive industry claims the technology isn't yet there to let them improve fuel economy — not without making changes that'll upset consumers. As for why the campaign's running in particular states . . .
DAVID KUSHMA: Y'know, this is probably a pretty good clue to where the industry thinks the swing votes are going to be on this bill. Obviously, you don't need to run these ads in Michigan because both senators are on record against higher standards.
Or in California, he says, where politicians are firmly on board with improved fuel standards.
In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.