The Lorax Speaks for an SUV, And Mazda Says That's OK

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Mazda is defending its marketing campaign in which it uses the beloved -- and ferociously eco-conscious -- children's book character the Lorax to sell its new SUV.

Mazda says its SUV is fuel-efficient for an SUV, getting 35 mph on the highway.   "It's part of our sustainable zoom-zoom long-term vision," Mazda spokesman Eric Booth told TN.

It's a tie-in that dovetails with the upcoming film adaptation of "The Lorax," which premieres in theaters this Friday. The book, which was written by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) in 1971, chronicles the environmental degradation caused by the Once-ler, whose pursuit of profits via a Thneed-producing factory kills Truffula trees and chokes wildlife into non-existence.

Mazda is running a commercial in which its new CX-5  dreamily drives through a technicolor forest of Truffula trees, endorsed by a variety of characters from the book.  The automaker says the CX-5 has received the "Certified Truffula Tree Seal of Approval."

Mazda's Eric Booth tells TN "Dr. Seuss himself -- and this is a direct quote -- has said 'The Lorax doesn't say lumbering is immoral...I live in a house made of wood and write books printed on paper. It's a book about going easy on what we've got.'"

But Booth didn't finish Geisel's quote, which continues: "It's antipollution and antigreed."

The comments on Mazda's YouTube page range from the unprintable to "Almost anything BUT a car would have been less appalling. It may as well be sponsored by Thneeds R Us!"

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a "Save the Lorax" campaign, calling for a boycott of companies using the Lorax for advertising. Josh Golin is the CCFC's associate director.  "It’s egregious to use the Lorax, who for more than 40 years has been a symbol of conservation, to sell kids on consumption and buying as many Lorax products as they can," he said. "And the most ridiculous and disturbing is to sell kids on the new Mazda SUV."  He said cars have been devastating to the environment. "It's laughable to say that the Lorax would encourage children to nag their parents to buy a certain car."

Booth says Mazda is "trying to improve and make improvements to make cars less polluting and more efficient. It's in the same vein of the POV that the Lorax is trying to get across.”

The CCFC boycott has gotten 2,200 signatures on its website since it went live on Tuesday.

According to federal government estimates, vehicles release over 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere each year--making cars responsible for just over 51% of a typical household's CO2 emissions.

But Mazda says it's developing more fuel-efficient technology -- and at a lower price point. The sticker price of the 2013 CX-5 starts at $20,695, and it gets 35 mpg highway/26 mpg city.

The Obama administration wants cars to have an average 55 mpg rating by the middle of the next decade.

"With this technology," said Eric Booth, who works on the Mazda account at the PR firm Hill+ Knowlton, "we're getting more out of internal combustion engines. We're delivering gasoline engines with diesel fuel economy, and diesel engines with hybrid fuel economy."

Note: The CX-5 comes in seven different colors. But none of the choices are green -- or, for that matter, Lorax orange.