Ford is set to introduce the Excursion, the world's biggest sport utility vehicle yet. For car drivers already intimidated by lane-hogging SUVs, bigger is not necessarily better, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
With SUVs now among the most politically incorrect -- but popular -- vehicles in America, Ford is billing the 19-foot, three-ton Excursion as a kinder, gentler SUV. Until now, SUVs have swallowed up cars in accidents. The bumper is designed to prevent cars from sliding under SUVs in a frontal collision.
"We have taken specific actions to make sure this vehicle is crash-compatible with the cars," Ford spokesman J.C. Collins tells CBS Correspondent Thalia Assuras.
Ford says the new steel beams mounted beneath both bumpers, as safety devices that will prevent the Excursion from crushing a car's passenger compartment.
And Ford insists the Excursion will be safer for the environment, even if it does get as little as 10 miles a gallon in the city.
Says Gurminder Bedi, Vice President of the Ford Truck Vehicle Center: "In fact, it's going to be a low emissions vehicle and is gonna have 43 percent less smog forming emissions than permitted by law."
But environmentalists have already tagged the new Excursion "The Ford Valdez" -- a reference to the tanker that leaked tons of oil into the waters off Alaska.
"Saying that this vehicle is a low-emissions sport utility vehicle doesn't necessarily mean it's as clean as a car," says Ann Mesnikoff, Sierra Club. "It will be polluting a lot more than a car. And it will certainly be spewing out a lot more global warming pollution than a car."
Ford thinks buyers will be eager to shell out $45,000 for the new SUV giants. Still, measuring a foot longer than the average parking space, and just inches shorter than a typical garage, the most interesting part of this Excursion may be parking it.
Ford says it has an answer for that.
The Excursion has "a sonar-based system that helps the customer back the vehicle up," explains Collins. "It has a tone. When the tone becomes solid, you're six to 10 inches from an object behind you. You know to stop."
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CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff