With tensions rising in the Middle East, experts are wringing their hands about America's continuing dependence on foreign oil. Is this any time to prepare a new fleet of gas-guzzlers? Detroit certainly thinks so, according to a Wall Street Journal story by Norihiko Shirouzu. Carmakers plan to come out with a new generation of large SUVs in 2002 that feature more-luxurious interiors, a better ride, fresh exterior styling and bigger engines. So far, consumer behavior seems to support the automakers' plans, despite the shaky economy. As gas prices have hit their lowest inflation-adjusted levels in decades, and interest-free financing and other generous discounts run rampant, customers have been snapping up today's oversized SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition. That's good news in particular for Detroit's Big Three, because these costly vehicles return substantially more profit than almost any other cars or trucks they sell. But even with the recent boom in purchases, the sales growth rate for large SUVs has slowed this year to 8.8 percent through Nov. 30 -- down from double-digit rates just a few years ago, according to the Journal.