Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Activists revolted by use of Lorax to sell cars

Posted by on February 29th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

New Mazda is “Truffula Tree Friendly”!

The auto industry will go to any length to sell their products: they’ll promote speeding on city streets when going too fast is the #1 reason so many people die and get injured in traffic collisions every day across America; they’ll sell huge SUVs and trucks even though they cause damage to humans around them and to the planet; they’ll make non-car mobility options look bad and encourage cash-strapped college students to sign up for loans — and the list goes on.

But this time, for a growing list of activists, they’ve gone to too far.

The product marketing buffet accompanying the new Lorax movie — a film based on a book that promotes an extremely important message about how some corporations care only about profits and not about the environment or what lives in it — includes a tie-in with Mazda.

The transportation advocates/journalists over at Streetsblog were quick to call out this unfortunate partnership:

“Yes, it’s come to this. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 1971 parable about environmental stewardship is now being used to make people feel less guilty about purchasing Mazda-brand motor vehicles.

Not pictured in the ad: The Truffula tree forest that was clear-cut to make way for the four-lane highway the Once-ler built to sell more Thneeds. (Today Mazda CX-5 owners use that highway to get to their outrageously wasteful, greenhouse gas-spewing subdivisions.)”

Here’s the Mazda/Lorax ad that features the pronouncement that their cars are the only ones to earn the coveted, “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” Seal of Approval:

And today, the Washington Post highlighted the Mazda/Lorax promo effort in full swing. In addition to a national ad campaign, Mazda is taking the Lorax himself, along with their graphics-wrapped SUVs, into elementary schools:

“The Lorax — that squat orange creature Dr. Seuss created to speak for the trees — is now hawking SUVs at elementary schools across the land…

It was a hybrid event: a celebration of reading, a fundraiser for public-school libraries, and an opportunity to market Mazdas to the pint-size set. While they don’t buy many cars themselves, they have direct access to parents who do.”

According to the Post, a Mazda rep told a crowd at the school that the 35 mpg Mazda SUV is, “the kind of car we think the Lorax would like to drive,” to which one student astutely pointed out, “The Lorax doesn’t drive a car.”

The Mazda/Lorax campaign has raised the ire of the non-profit group, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. They’ve launched a national, “Save the Lorax” campaign that includes a petition and a media push. A spokesperson for CFCC told the Washington Post, “This is among the most outrageous examples of any school advertisement program I’ve ever heard of.”

For me, this situation raises some troubling questions.

A few weeks back, national bike advocacy group Bikes Belong announced a major partnership with Volkswagen (a carmaker accused of greenwashing in a recent Greenpeace campaign). While that partnership is much different than the Mazda/Lorax one, they both show the pervasive grip car culture has on our society.

Can America embrace a future with less private-auto transportation when automakers’ money and marketing is dedicated to the opposite outcome? Should we be concerned about the insidious creep of car culture into our daily lives? In my view, these are questions worth asking. What do you think?

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  • Brock Dittus February 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Just noticed the red helmeted guy in the western bike works ad kind of resembles Darth Maul.

    Also, reducing the Lorax to an automotive shill seems like a terrible misappropriation of a beloved childhood memory.

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  • John Lascurettes February 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I have a feeling this campaign is going to bite Mazda embarrassingly-so on the ass. And by the sounds of that one school outing, maybe it will be kids that lead the charge. 🙂

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    • Al from PA March 1, 2012 at 4:09 am

      Remember what happened to the cigarette industry: the scandal of their aggressive marketing of an addictive and dangerous substance to children–“Joe Camel” was their Lorax–was the beginning of the end of their legitimacy (as corporations–but as Mitt reminds us, “Corporations are people too”) in the eyes of the general public.

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  • Rol February 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    To me it’s like, the cat’s already out of the bag, people. If we didn’t want these people (capitalists of the automotive sector) to accumulate so much influence, we shouldn’t have been giving them so much of our money all these years. But at least you can stop giving it to them now.

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    • Spiffy February 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      if we had a choice we wouldn’t have been giving them money this whole time… but they used their money already to take our choices away…

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      • Rol February 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        You’re right about that, and that’s part of their influence. (Using their influence to increase their influence. Classic!)

        Even so, there are ALWAYS choices. When dealing with an adversary (and that’s what they are) it’s best to focus on those choices, rather than asking them to do what you want them to (fat chance!) Ask Mazda to behave, or simply starve them? How many of these suddenly concerned parents drove their kids to school in SUVs? No outrage for all those years about the pollution, the economic & political inequality, the squandering of resources… but WHOA, HOLD ON A SECOND, DON’T TOUCH OUR BELOVED BABY BOOMER ICON OF ECOLOGY! Protecting the symbol of something you destroy every day is a bit ah, shall-we-say, lacking clarity. The Lorax in a car commercial is actually the perfect image for that.

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    • are February 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      or allowing them to claim intellectual property rights to the lorax, which could then be licensed out to car manufacturers

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  • NW Biker February 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Looks to me as if Mazda took a lesson from McDonald’s. Market to the kids and the parents will follow.

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    • John Lascurettes February 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      But it sounds like the kids are wise to the Loraxx shilling for cars. Does. Not. Compute. to them.

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  • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    We are a one car family here in Portland. We’ve structured our lives so that we don’t drive much, but when we do, we often need to carry a bunch of stuff and we occasionally do have need for AWD. We are currently in the market for a new car.

    So, which vehicle meets my needs and has the best MPG? Yup, the Mazda CX-5. It’s has better MPG than Subaru Outbacks, Foresters, or Honda CR-Vs. However, if I purchase this, or any car, I won’t be giving myself an environmental pat on the back because I know that I am still hurting the environment every time I fire up that internal combustion engine.

    Perhaps this is why the commercial is so upsetting to me, they took a good thing – making a more (relatively speaking) environmentally friendly vehicle – and taking it 5x too far by trying to state that it is somehow environmentally pristine.

    Based on the facts and figures, I should purchase this vehicle as it is most environmentally friendly vehicle to meet my needs. But my heart is telling me to get the SECOND most environmentally friendly vehicle for the fact that they have such a crass marketing campaign.

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    • Paul Souders February 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Well said.

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    • Chris I February 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      The CX-5 is a bit smaller than the Subaru Outback, so I would expect the fuel economy to be slightly better, which it is. 25/31 for the CX-5 vs. 22/29 for the Outback. The Outback is larger and more powerful, has more ground clearance, and a better AWD system. You may also want to consider embodied energy. Subaru produces their cars in Indiana, and has publicized the “greenness” of their facility there.

      If you can go a bit smaller, the Impreza also offers AWD, and will get you 27/36 mpg.

      The technology Mazda talks about in this ad is just greenwashing.

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      • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        Oh No! We’re going to start talking cars within the BikePortland forums!

        In a former life, I was a bit of a gearhead. I’ve owned a Subaru and have recommended them to my parents, brother and sister. Now they all have Subarus.

        The Outback and Impreza get their good mileage primarily from using Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs). Whereas the four speed Forester doesn’t, and as a result, has much worse gas mileage than all of the other vehicles mentioned.

        The Mazda DOES get it’s MPG from a regular (6 speed) transmission through keeping the weight down (for it’s size), through extracting more horses from a small displacement engine and by reducing engine friction. That said, they probably would have seen much better mileage if they also went with CVT, but they didn’t.

        All this to say, there is new technology in the Mazda that makes it greener than it otherwise could be, but it’s difficult to contend that it is actually environmentally friendly.

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        • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm

          “The Outback and Impreza get their good mileage”
          um, good mileage?
          Back in 1990 the top 25 new cars available in the US averaged 43.6mpg on the highway. You may want to recalibrate your assessment of today’s SUV mileage in light of where we’ve been.

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          • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm

            Pretty sure that wouldn’t be an apples-to-apples comparison. EPA has changed how they calculated the MPG once (maybe a few times) since 1990. They keep making their tests more difficult to get closer to what MPG consumers would get in the “real world.”

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            • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm

              they did change their test once to my knowledge in 2007. But the adjustment factor doesn’t span the spread we’re talking about here.
              Anyway, mpg discussions to my mind are really a 20th Century preoccupation (and one in which I participated for several decades).

              I just wanted to offer a bit of numeric context for what today passes for fuel efficient.

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              • GlowBoy March 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

                Yes, it was 2008 when EPA changed how they rate vehicles for window-sticker purposes.

                The fleet fuel economy (CAFE) ratings you’re talking about, however, are based on the EPA’s raw tests, which yield much higher numbers. The window sticker numbers are heavily downrated from there to reflect the driving habits of Americans who haven’t been trained in ecodriving.

                Consider the old paragon of fuel economy, the Honda Civic:
                – 2007 model: rated 30/38mpg.
                – 2008 model: rated 26/34mpg. No changes were made to the car.
                – For CAFE purposes both the 2007 and 2008 models were rated 34/49mpg.

                I do give Mazda credit for improving their fuel economy massively in the last couple of years. They used to be known for “zoom-zoom” (and gulp-gulp). The new Mazda3 hatchback is now rated 27/39, up from a really lousy 21/29 for the 2011 model. The new CX-5 now gets 26/35 in 2WD form, compared with 23/28 for the outgoing Tribute model. (And why anyone who doesn’t drive on unmaintained roads in snow country would “need” AWD is beyond me, when today’s studless winter tires and 2nd-gen traction control systems are so good).

                But this Lorax/Mazda campaign is unbelievably cheezy to me.

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    • John Lascurettes February 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Maybe had they (Mazda) at least admitted, “well, it ain’t perfect but it’s a step in the right direction” it would be more forgivable. But it’s just sleazy the way the’ve co-opted the Loraxx. I need a shower.

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  • K'Tesh February 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Mazda looks like it’s heading for the FAIL blog

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  • Jim Lee February 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Theodore Geisel made tons of money by his books, enough to endow the main library at the University of California, San Diego, which is a bizarre industrial tech monstrosity of a building: not exactly Lorax-friendly.

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  • norcopdx February 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Colbert liked the all product placement in the Lorax movie too. I tried to paste in a link to his segment from Monday. Not sure if worked.

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  • ME 2 February 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I’m not surprised at this, but I think more outrage should be directed at Universal studios. Of course, all sorts of companies are going to try to jump on the Dr. Suess brand, you expect it. However, Universal as the protector of a story about enviro stewardship are the ones who had the power to decide what companies they would associate this movie with and shame on them for allowing a car company into the fold.

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  • wsbob February 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    “…According to the Post, a Mazda rep told a crowd at the school that the 35 mph Mazda SUV …” maus/bikeportland

    35 miles to the gallon is what the Post said, but maybe some cars that only went 35mph would be a good idea.

    Remember when Camel cigarettes were using the lovable cartoon camel character to shill cigarettes? People got upset about the inevitable appeal the character would have to kids, so the tobacco company had to stop using the character.

    Using cuddly Dr Seuss characters to get kids to bug their parents into buying a certain car is a con, but not an evil con introducing physical addiction, as the cartoon camel for cigarettes was. Because cars are a practical, modern transportation reality, a lot of people are probably going to need to be driving or riding in cars to some extent for a long time to come.

    The Lorax isn’t being employed to pitch a huge, 10mpg gas hogging motor vehicle. It’s being employed to pitch a relative sipper at 35mpg. This fact provides some justification for helping kids influence their parents towards buying a more fuel efficient car.

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    • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      “a relative sipper at 35mpg”
      please! This is not 1980 we’re talking about. Back then 35 mpg was big news, not to mention VW’s 50mpg+ diesel rabbit.

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      • wsbob February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm

        The car is a relative sipper compared to those that get 10mph. That’s what I wrote.

        “”a relative sipper at 35mpg”
        please! This is not 1980 we’re talking about. Back then 35 mpg was big news, not to mention VW’s 50mpg+ diesel rabbit.” 9watts

        Why do new cars today that try go for high mpg’s, not get the old diesel rabbit’s 50mpg (with the exception of hybrids.)? I hear people wondering about this, speculating about possible reasons, but not being sure why.

        What I see for the future, assuming that cities move toward redesigning themselves for accessibility to places to live, work and shop, that doesn’t oblige use of a motor vehicle, is that many people will still want to own and use cars, but they’ll put on fewer miles per year.

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        • peoples republic March 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          Lot’s of simple reasons why for the most part today’s cars don’t get the fuel economy of their 80’s equivalent.

          Without question today’s Golf TDI is safer for it’s occupants than the 80’s Rabbit. It’s larger, with better engineering and has many more features. All that stuff adds weight and weight kills fuel economy.

          Think about all the things that the modern golf has that the standard rabbit did not have. Power wndows/sunroof , power steering, power seats, AC, leather, ABS, multiple Airbags, 17″ wheels, better emissions equipment, the list goes on.

          I’d guess that 80’s rabbit had an engine that produced about 70bhp and today’s golf produces about 150 bhp. Performance is different too that 80’s rabbit likely went 0-60 in 12+ seconds today’s golf is likely around 9 seconds or less.

          We all have our opinions about the merit of these differences but it should be easy to see why today’s cars don’t get the mileage of the past. For the last 30 years the car industry has focused on performance, features and safety before efficiency.

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          • 9watts March 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

            “For the last 30 years the car industry has focused on performance, features and safety before efficiency.”

            I would generally agree with you, but I’m not so sure about the safety vs. fuel economy tradeoff. Performance and features, sure.
            And we should mention that by focusing so much on the safety for those inside, and the insulative effect all of these priorities have had on those inside, let’s not overlook the overall effect this has had on the safety of those *outside* the car. Airbags and sound proofing and entertainment centers have done nothing for the pedestrian’s wellbeing or statistical probability of being run over.

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            • GlowBoy March 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

              I don’t think safety features are adding much weight in and of themselves … cars have gotten heavier because cars are bigger and most of today’s consumers avoid buying really lightweight vehicles.

              Putting VW diesels in perspective:
              – The 1984 VW Rabbit diesel was rated 44/57 mpg, because at the time the EPA printed the raw numbers from their tests on the window stickers.
              – In 1985 the rating dropped to 42/48mpg, as the EPA started printing “adjusted” ratings on the window stickers. The 44/57 figure was still used in fleet fuel economy calculations.
              – Under EPA’s post-2008 rules, the 1984 VW Rabbit diesel would be rated 35/43. This is the number to use if you want to compare apples-to-applies with today’s cars.

              FWIW, 2000-2003 was the sweet spot for VW diesels. My wife’s 2000 Golf TDI had an original window-sticker rating of 42/49mpg, and would be 38/45mpg today. Better than the 1980s model, with a plenty-powerful engine and excellent crash ratings.

              The new TDIs are down to 30/42mpg. Not because the cars have gotten heavier — they weigh about the same as our 2000 model — but the engine has gotten massively more powerful, going from 90hp to 140hp. Even as it is, our 90hp model has gut-wrenching torque, and (not that I do this) can launch from a stop in an impressive cloud of tire smoke. Why anyone would need 140hp and 236 lb-ft of torque in a small car is beyond my middle-aged comprehension.

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              • 9watts March 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm

                we should talk VW diesel fuel economy history some time, compare notes. Send me an e-mail if you feel so inclined – 9watts /at/ gmail.

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          • wsbob March 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

            peoples republic…I think the suggestions you offered as to why today’s Golf TDI and other cars that strive for fuel efficiency don’t get the mileage of the vintage Rabbit, are fair.

            Car manufacturers do work to make their products less disruptive to environment and community, often not by their choice. Small item in Tuesday’s O: cars have had them as options for some years, but the feds have apparently decided that in a couple years, all new cars will have to be equipped with rear view cameras.

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    • are February 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      i had a 93 saturn SL2 that was still getting 36 mpg in 2008 when it had over 150k on it

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      • GlowBoy March 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

        True, but the ’93 SL2 was rated 24/35 under the rules at the time, and would be rated 21/32 under the post-2008 rules that apply to today’s cars. Fueleconomy.gov has all the numbers.

        If you were getting 36mpg in that car, the same driving habits would yield at least as much in a new Mazda CX-5, and probably 42-45mpg in a new Mazda3.

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        • are March 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm

          interesting the 24/35 rating, because in fact almost all my driving was not highway. maybe it was the manual transmission.

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  • Paul Hanrahan February 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    MossHops, if you want to buy a greener car, buy a used one. A few MPG difference doesn’t matter as much as using new resources to build a new car. Enough cars have been made already, go used.

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    • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Interesting point. I do see a significant increase in MPG with recent vehicles (probably on average, around 20%), which in my mind, is pretty significant. Wish there was a good way to estimate the life cycle analysis assuming that I held on to a car (new or used) for 10-12 years.

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      • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm

        there are lots of ways to do that. Why limit yourself to 10 or 12 years? Remember, someone is buying your car that you get rid of… If it is good enough for them, why not for you?

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    • Mike February 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      In the case of a 2011 Impreza vs. a 2012 (or the CX-5), we are talking about 10 mpg, over 30%. That is a lot of fuel economy to give up. Not to mention that many new cars use synthetic oils and have better emission controls than a car from even 5 years ago.

      You could find an awd and convert to biodiesel.

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      • Chris I February 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm

        You can’t compare the Subaru vehicles against the FWD CX-5; they do not compete in the same class. The AWD CX-5 gets 25/31, so only 6mpg better than the older Impreza.

        This article states that, in general, a new car produces as much CO2 in its manufacturing as it generates during its life:

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        • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

          Interesting link that leads me to an honest question. The article assumes that if I don’t buy a new car and rather buy used, that the environmental impact would be less. Intuitively, I can’t see how that is the case. I haven’t decreased demand for cars, I’ve just substituted one car for another. Someone else will have to buy a new car because the overall demand for cars hasn’t changed.

          Now, when our family went from two cars to one, that did change demand and has an overall far greater environmental impact because it DOES lead to one less car being made.

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          • Chris I March 1, 2012 at 6:27 am

            The reality is somewhere in between. Every person that buys a used car slightly increases the market value of used cars in general. You are seeing this affect now due to lack of access to credit. Now that used cars are worth more, people are more likely to spend money to repair them, so they last longer. If you buy a new car, you are adding one more used car to the market, depressing the prices.

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            • MossHops March 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

              From an economics standpoint, new cars are a substitution for used cars. That is, all things being equal, if prices of used cars are high, people will begin buying new.

              Post “Cash for clunkers” was a perfect example of this, old cars were sold, used car prices went up due to constrained supply, and then new car sales went up to meet the pent up demand and used car prices dropped.

              With tight credit, more people keep those used cars, driving up prices of used cars due to constrained supply and therefore makes it more attractive for people with good credit to buy new.

              However over the long run at the end of each of these scenarios, supply will always rise to meet demand as there will always be manufacturers willing to build new cars to meet the needs of the consumer. To truly limit the total number of cars on the roads and new cars being built, we have to drive down demand. We can’t materially change the supply side because we can’t stop manufacturers from manufacturing new cars.

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        • Greg February 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm

          I can’t take the Guardian article seriously. Not only don’t they cite an actual study, they have apples to bananas comparisons like this:

          “Indeed, for each mile driven, the emissions from the manufacture of a top-of-the-range Land Rover Discovery that ends up being scrapped after 100,000 miles may be as much as four times higher than the tailpipe emissions of a Citroen C1”

          Who scraps a car now after 100K? Compare a Land Rover to a C1?

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  • Jim Lee February 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Geisel produced lots of advertising for capitalist enterprises, including Esso, the precursor of Exxon.

    Also drove his first wife to suicide.

    Know your facts. Know your history. Know your man.

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    • Nathan February 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Drove her in a sweet Mazda! 35MPG!!

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  • fasterthanme February 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Unfortunately Mazda’s gonna do pretty well with this. Maybe not today but 10 or so years down the road.

    Children often decide the type/brand of car they’re gonna buy by the age of 10. Using cartoon characters like this is almost a lock-in for future consumers.

    Yay Madison avenue, just when I didn’t think you could go any lower, you do!

    We should follow Sweden’s example and BAN all advertising aimed at children 12 and under.

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  • SteelSchwinnster54 February 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Just going to say this once. New cars send money to manufacturing(Japan Korea wherever). Used cars send money to local company/dealer, no additional energy used for NEW car. Savings from cost difference used long time in expensive fuel/maintence. P.S. all foriegn companys buy our precious manufactured steel at about five cents a pound, then reuse it to manufacture THEIR exports. Go ahead figure out what you are paying per pound, I double rider dare you!

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    • resopmok February 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      cars are mostly plastics and composites now these days anyway. what little hunk of steel under the hood remains buried beneath the computers is hardly enough to set off a metal detector at the airport. this probably isn’t a bad thing, though, since we’re probably better off recycling our older vehicles to help maintain the world’s dwindling supply of iron and steel for the future manufacture of bicycles.

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  • Psyfalcon February 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Seems this Lorax movie has little to no actual environmental message. Forget the car ad, they seem to have turned the whole thing into a love story.

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  • JF February 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Mazda did not invent the Lorax; it is not some cartoon Mazda created to sell their product.

    Whoever owns the Lorax naming and image rights sold it to the highest bidder (mazda in this case) to use. In order for Mazda to use the Lorax in its advertising campaign, i am sure there is a very strict contract indicating what the Lorax can be used for and what it can’t be.

    What do you want to do? Blame any movie that shows a car? Blame pixar for making a movie starring Cars? Also blame the italian job for promoting the mini cooper zipping around city streets? Transformer’s Bumblebee is a car. Last year Skoda was the official car sponsor of the TDF. Blake Griffen endorses hyundai. Jennifer Lopez promotes fiat. The list goes on.

    Car manufactures are aware to the fact that people are looking for cleaner cars with efficient mpg. Mazda is using the Lorax. Subaru is using cute creatures. Prius uses some wierd contouring people.

    My question, is would you rather the Lorax be a sponsor of a 35 mpg car or a 15 mpg car?

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    • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      “would you rather the Lorax be a sponsor of a 35 mpg car or a 15 mpg car?”
      I think you’re biases are showing. I would rather not be asked such silly questions.

      MPG is an obsolete and increasingly irrelevant metric. It makes not a whit of difference if we use up all the oil/atmosphere/climatic stability by burning it in engines that get 5 or 100 mpg. We need to leave the stuff in the ground and figure out what steps to take to get to that point. The fuel economy of NEW CARS(!) is the wrong frame. Like we don’t have enough with the hundreds of millions of cars already on the road!

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      • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        9watts, when I posted above that I was in the market for a car, it is the response like yours that I feared the most.

        At the heart of it, there are perfect solutions and there are near-perfect pragmatic solutions. From an environmental standpoint, the perfect solution is that we do away with all cars. The pragmatic solution is that we go as car-lite as we can by driving less, getting the most fuel efficient vehicle that fits our needs and budgets and be supporters of alternative forms of transport.

        I am choosing the latter path and I believe that this is near-term viable for most Americans. However, by striving to be “better” than what was rather than being perfect, I always run the risk of others casting stones because it isn’t perfect.

        In the long run, I’d posit that we will make a far greater environmental impact through helping Americans achieve incremental pragmatic improvements to their environmental impact as opposed to promoting an “all or nothing” solution.

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        • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm

          I hear you MossHops.
          It appears that we differ most in our estimation of whether buying (any) new car is a near-perfect pragmatic solution, as you put it.

          “In the long run, I’d posit that we will make a far greater environmental impact through helping Americans achieve incremental pragmatic improvements to their environmental impact as opposed to promoting an “all or nothing” solution.”

          Maybe we need to do a whole lot of both and discuss the merits of each? Test the claims and evidence of each/of all?

          Why close our eyes to the possibility that the situation will or might (some day) demand an ‘all or nothing’ solution?

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        • 9watts February 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm

          “that I feared the most.”
          care to explain why?

          Let me give an example: Let us say that you had reason to expect that Joplin, Missouri would be hit by a tornado in the near future. Your friends live in Joplin and are considering adding on to their house. Do you counsel them to build the addition, or do you instead suggest they fortify their basement?

          This is similar to how I feel about the future of our transportation choices. I can’t anymore counsel anyone to buy a new car in good conscience. I don’t see it as pragmatic, as second-best, and certainly not as a near-perfect solution.

          The money that a new-car-not-bought frees up is not pocket change. With that money all sorts of alternatives could be explored, invested in, embraced, new skills acquired. Many of us are doing just that. But you certainly shouldn’t go that route because I or anyone else says so. Just know that some of us won’t interpret your continued investment in new cardom as prudent under the circumstances.

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          • MossHops February 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

            “Just know that some of us won’t interpret your continued investment in new cardom as prudent under the circumstances.”

            Yes, so the fact that I went from driving a car 110 miles a day to zero, went down from two cars to one, made a personal commitment to bike or walk everywhere that I can and am trying to buy a more environmentally friendly automobile means nothing to you because it’s not the perfect solution. I get that.

            But recognize the result. I leave this interaction more discouraged rather than encouraged. More judged rather than embraced and more inclined to hang with the environmental sinners rather than cast my lot with the Holier-than-thou Pharisees.

            You can judge others as not up to your standards if you’d like, but the cause that you state that you stand for may suffer because of it. Embrace the big tent. Help people make better and better decisions and know that although they may not be perfect, they are at least attempting to move in the right direction.

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            • 9watts March 1, 2012 at 7:34 am

              None of my comments (and I think you know this) reflect on any of your decisions regarding your family’s transportation except the stated intention of buying a new car. I’m mostly echoing and expanding on your initial sentiment that “it’s difficult to contend that [the Mazda SUV] is actually environmentally friendly.”

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              • MossHops March 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

                Ever write one of those posts where you realize, after you hit the reply button, that the tone was a bit much? Yeah, my last post was like that.

                Let me finish my thoughts on this topic with this: Everyone has different transportation needs and priorities. It is by nature a personal decision and with that personal decision, I hope that many will choose options that meet the needs of their situation in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

                I wish that I could state that is it feasible for my family to go car free, but it’s not. I wish it was feasible for me to state that an old bio-diesel vehicle will meet our needs, but it doesn’t. I wish there was a high mpg awd wagon (hybrid or diesel) available on the market, but there isn’t.

                I am going to choose the best vehicle that I can for my family and the planet and it just isn’t going to be as environmentally friendly as what others can choose. That is what it is. I will do the best that I can given my circumstance and I hope that others can give the benefit of the doubt knowing that they do not know the particulars of my situation.

                Back to the topic at hand, this issue is what is wrong with the Mazda commercial. I might choose the CX-5, but I am fully aware that is far from the environmentally ideal solution and frankly I am frustrated that their isn’t a better solution available. The CX-5 represents the best of a bad lot environmentally speaking, and its offensive to ascribe the “Truffula Tree Seal of Approval” to such an imperfect option. The “blessing” of the Lorax implies and environmental A+, whereas most of us who are paying attention would give Mazda a very charitable D+.

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              • Jeremy Cohen March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

                I won’t try to advise you on your car purchase–but as you wisely note, this post was originally about the disconnect of the advertising campaign. My suggestion: whatever car you do purchase (even if it turns out it is a Mazda at some point in the near future), make sure you head over to the Mazda dealer and let them know you are NOT buying their car today because of that offensive ad. Imagine the dealer reaction to the corporate mucky-mucks if lots of *potential* buyers stop by to mention that although they really like the Mazda, they are headed over to subaru right now to look at their offerings BECAUSE of the advertisement. Part of being a local dealer to a national product is that you are guaranteed a certain amount of national advertising to compliment your own local advertising. If enough dealers call up and report that advertising is making it MORE DIFFICULT to sell cars, that advertising will stop.

                Lets not forget those famous words: “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!” (NOT the Mazdas.) I will be telling the local Mazda dealer that I will NOT be buying a Mazda today because of that ad.

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  • resopmok February 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    puhleeez people. pointing out that a corporation would stoop to a new low in it’s marketing efforts is like crying foul over.. well, something really insignificant. “where does it end then?” you might retort. it doesn’t. corporate marketing is continually laced with all manner of irony and new-low-dom that could (and will) be imagined, ad infinitum.

    as for the elephant in the room, the real question is how do we as a society transition from the car-addicted people we have become over the past 115 or so years? while many a truffula has been supplanted by concrete, we must surely wonder what on earth will we do with all those useless rocks once highway capacity far outstrips the demand for its use? perhaps the next great wonder of the world will be the removal of so much asphalt – without the use of giant trucks.

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  • middle of the road guy February 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I have a Mazda3 and I would buy that car again in a heartbeat. Plus, my bikes look really good on the roof rack.

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  • Peter W February 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    ‘Tree friendly’ is as much a misnomer as the often used phrase, ‘environmentally friendly’.

    Doesn’t “environmentally friendly” mean, *literally*, that something is friendly to the environment? And doesn’t ‘friendly’ mean ‘tending or disposed to help or support’ [1]?

    Is it possible to argue that any given car, by itself, is lending ‘help’ to the environment? That the environment (and any life form it supports) is actually *better off* because we drilled and mined and paved and, through burning coal and oil, emitted vast volumes of unnatural chemicals into the air we breathe… all so that a person could avoid the troublesome burden of traveling through that environment in the way they had for eons?

    Doing something damaging to another, for your own convenience, is a strange definition of ‘friendly’, but apparently one that modern society subscribes to given the way we market ‘green’ products.

    I am so tired of people using the term ‘environmentally friendly’ when really they should be saying “less environmentally damaging than it could be”.

    1: dictionary.com

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  • Kenny March 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I have a 92 VW GTI 16v that still gets 33 MPG on the freeway, 26 in town. It scoots too (admittedly I need to start it weekly now because I drive 250 miles a year likely now… And my bikes do look awesome on the Thule rack). My wife’s 04 Forester gets 27 city and we have recorded as high as 34 MPG highway on road trips. I don’t know why the EPA rates them lower. ? My 87 Sprint Turbo got 48 MPG.. Just sold that car. Fast and more efficient than a modern hybrid, but as others are saying, it weighed 1700 lbs. New TDI VWs are almost double.

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  • Joe March 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

    until we build complete bike transport integration for all modes the auto will be misused.

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