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Old 08-12-2002, 11:23   #1 (permalink)
Mr. Embargo
Join Date: May 2001
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Ford to focus on new hybrid Escape

TRAVERSE CITY - Ford Motor Co. likely won't join in on an automaker lawsuit in California against strict pollution measures, preferring instead a kinder, gentler approach. Part of that approach is Ford's new hybrid Escape sport utility vehicle, which will probably get 40 miles per gallon and should be on the road next year.

Sue Cischke, Ford vice president of environmental and safety engineering, said Thursday the new hybrid Ford Escape should get around that mileage in city driving when it goes on the road next year, but it will also cost more.

"We haven't set the price yet," she said, but the price tag will be higher than a conventional Escape, which is why Ford is hoping consumers who do purchase one will be able to use state and federal tax credits.

"Consumers want safer, more reliable and more eco-friendly vehicles at a lower price," she said in her speech to the annual management briefing sponsored by the University of Michigan and Center For Automotive Research.

Cischke also said Ford was interested in trying to find some sort of common ground with regulators in California, which recently passed tough new curbs on the emissions of carbon dioxide.

The Alliance For Automotive Manufacturers is expected to sue to stop California from imposing the new greenhouse-gas curbs.

However, William Clay Ford Jr., Ford's chief executive officer, said Ford probably will not join in the suit. The battle between automakers and environmentalists has become pretty heated in California and the best course might to pull back from a confrontation with the state's powerful regulators.

"I think the best thing we can do is try to lower the temperature in California," Ford told reporters.

"During the nearly 25 years I've worked in the industry, the love affair people had with the automobile has grown stale and, some would say, is even dying."

Ford also said he was relieved that Rep. John Dingell, D.-Mich., one of the auto industry's top Congressional defenders, survived a tough primary challenge from Rep. Lynn Rivers. Rivers campaign was helped by environmental groups.

Cischke said diesel engines, for example, could play a role in helping resolve the complicated questions involving fuel economy and emissions.

The new generations of diesel engines are much better than those used by automakers 20 years ago, but those engines still have a negative image that's difficult for the automakers to overcome, several executives noted this week.

Kurt Liedtke, chief executive of Robert Bosch gmbh, one of the industry's top suppliers, said industry representatives should sit down with government and environmental groups to try to hammer out a coherent approach to environmental and fuel economy issues.

"The U.S. has no apparent near-term comprehensive energy solutions that have been put forth by the industry, even though technology may exist to help alleviate our current energy challenges," said David Cole, president of the Center For Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

Source: The Oakland Press
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