LETTER: SUV group explains its relationship with carmakers, funding sources

Whether it was dereliction of duty, breathtaking chutzpa or just a brain freeze, Paul Holmes' column last week takes the cake for "do as I say, not as I do" advice.

Whether it was dereliction of duty, breathtaking chutzpa or just a brain freeze, Paul Holmes' column last week takes the cake for "do as I say, not as I do" advice.

In the course of maligning SUV Owners of America (SUVOA) as a hide-the-facts group, Mr. Holmes hid the facts from himself by failing to call SUVOA for comment. Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling.

Had Mr. Holmes bothered to punch up our phone number, he would have spared himself the embarrassment he should feel for the many factual errors contained in his slanted column. Among them:

  • Our Board of Directors does NOT "consist largely of industry reps or public affairs execs with ties to the industry." Indeed, SUVOA's bylaws specifically bar auto industry membership. As with my position at the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, it should surprise no one that SUVOA board members are interested in SUVs - why else would we serve on the board?

  • Lest anyone harbor misperceptions that SUVOA's funding is "opaque," let me clear the air. As has been widely reported in mainstream media and, yes, PR Week, SUVOA is funded mainly through advertising on our website - just as PR Week and the Los Angeles Times are supported by advertising. We also receive contributions from some of our members, but our bylaws prohibit receipt of contributions from the auto industry.

  • SUVOA is NOT "a front for SUV manufacturers." While our interests sometimes align, we stand 100 percent independent of the auto industry. No one but our board and staff decides our positions. In fact, SUVOA recently was offered funding in exchange for changing our position on an issue, a deal from which we happily walked away.

  • Contrary to Holmes' slipshod research, our materials proudly note that more than 23,000 SUV owners have enlisted as SUVOA members and supporters.

    Here are the facts about SUVOA: We were founded in 1999 by a retired Wisconsin businessman fed up with anti-SUV attacks but frustrated that no one - not industry nor other entities - was effectively defending the rights of SUV Owners. That core mission continues to guide our organization. Is SUVOA staffed by knowledgeable individuals with experience at the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Capitol Hill and the White House? Yes. By skillful people who do or have done work for other clients including car companies? Sure. Is that a conflict of interest? No. Who better to defend the rights of SUV owners than those who have made or worked on public policies that affect SUV owners?

    A consistent refrain of Mr. Holmes's previous columns is greater openness and communication. Yet in writing a column criticizing a particular group on that very subject, he was curiously incurious. Fair-minded readers could be forgiven for perceiving that Holmes evinces the same anti-SUV bias that gave rise to SUVOA in the first place.

    David Humphreys serves on the board of directors of SUV Owners of America and is President of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

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