Indiana Doubles SUV Use, Census Finds

Despite environmental and safety concerns swirling around sport utility vehicles, SUVs are increasingly popular with Indiana drivers. But California is still tops in the number of Hummers, Ford Explorers, Lincoln Navigators and other off-road-capable vehicles.

Indiana doubled its registrations of SUVs between 1997 and 2002, according to a U.S. Census report released April 26. Wisconsin and Rhode Island also registered a high rate of SUVs in 2002, the most recent data available.

About 2.2 million private and commercial trucks were registered in Indiana in 2002. Wisconsin registered 1.9 million SUVs, and Rhode Island had 216,700.

California, where SUV owner Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor, has the most SUV owners in the country with more than 3.5 million, according to the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America (SUVOA). About 24 million people own SUVs in the United States, SUVOA said.

Luring buyers for bigger vehicles, auto dealers have touted a small-business tax benefit in the $350 billion tax cut that President Bush signed in 2003. The loophole increased from $25,000 to $100,000 the amount small firms could write off annually for investments in machinery and big-ticket items.

The April 26 Census data were a preview of a forthcoming report. A state-by-state Census report on SUV registrations will be released in October, and other states' data will be posted on the Internet over the next several months.