Ford getting greener
Union of Concerned Scientists ranks six largest automakers
By Kristin English, Medill News Service
Last Update: 4:46 PM ET Dec. 4, 2002
WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- Ford trucks now spew less smog-forming emissions into the atmosphere than they did two years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists said Tuesday, making Ford the only one of the big six automakers to get improved marks in the group's biennial ranking of the companies' environmental performance.
The group of scientists and citizens ranked DaimlerChrysler (DCX: news, chart, profile), Ford (F: news, chart, profile), General Motors (GM: news, chart, profile), Honda (HMC: news, chart, profile), Nissan (NSANY: news, chart, profile) and Toyota (TM: news, chart, profile) on their friendliness to the environment based on smog-forming emissions and carbon dioxide emissions of their vehicles.
According to the group, the world's six largest automakers account for 93 percent of the smog-forming pollution and 92 percent of carbon dioxide pollution.
"This information has been repackaged more than Bing Crosby's greatest holiday hits," said Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents all of the big six automakers except Honda, as well as seven other car and truck manufacturers.
Ford ranked fifth out of the six for cars made in model year 1998, but jumped to fourth in the recent report for its 2001 models.
The Union of Concerned Scientists credited Ford's environmental achievements to the leadership of William Clay Ford Jr., Henry Ford's great-grandson, who took the company's helm in 1999.
"Bill Ford has touted his green thumb, but until now, only his speeches have merited a thumbs up," said Jason Mark, the report's author. "Ford deserves credit for going beyond federal requirements to clean up smog-forming emissions from its trucks."
While Ford's 2001car emissions were higher than they were in 1998 models, truck emissions decreased between those two years.
Ford's largest trucks and sport utility vehicles emit between 20 and 25 percent less smog-forming emissions than General Motors' trucks of comparable size. But the fuel economy for Ford's most popular models ranks below that for all other vehicles made by automakers, the report said.
The report said Ford's record still has a way to go, though, because many of its models are not very fuel-efficient. Ford has pledged to increase the fuel economy of its sport utility vehicles by 25 percent by 2005.
Honda again ranked at the top of the list. According to the report, Honda trucks emit the least amount of smog-inducing emissions and Honda cars lead in fuel efficiency. While Honda was also the most environmentally friendly based on 1998 models, other makers closed the gap in 2001 because of new tailpipe standards that reduce emissions overall.
DaimlerChrysler ranked last because most of the vehicles it sells are trucks, which pollute more and get worse mileage.
DaimlerChrysler vehicles' emissions of global warming gases increased overall. The report said that the company uses loopholes in miles per gallon regulations by basing its miles per gallon data on vehicles running on ethanol. While the 2001 Dodge Caravan model got 24 miles per gallon on gasoline, it got 39 miles per gallon on ethanol, the report said.
"DaimlerChrysler light trucks outperform GM and Ford in average fuel economy, but we are penalized in the ranking because our minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are so popular," said Stuart Schorr, a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler.
Toyota ranked second, Nissan third and General Motors fifth.
"It's not always easy to compare companies," noted Territo of the automakers' group. "It's not as simple as saying one company is greener than another."
Mark said policymakers need to be more active in establishing emission standards for vehicles. He called President Bush's auto emissions policy "woefully inadequate."
He said automakers have the technology to make their vehicles more environmentally friendly, they just don't.
"Automakers are spending more of their time trying to develop the next gadget rather than building more efficient vehicles," Mark said.
In fact, automakers that go beyond the current environmental standards will be ahead of the game when the government does step up and increase standards, said Laura Huskins, a financial analyst at Trillium Asset Management.
Territo said automakers have made new cars and light trucks 96 percent cleaner than 1960s models. By 2009, all new vehicles will be 80 percent less polluting than this year's models, he said.