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Old 11-22-2005, 18:51   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford asks feds for energy help

Ford asks feds for energy help

By Harry Stoffer
Automotive News

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford Tuesday called on the federal government to do more to help the U.S. auto industry shift to advanced vehicles and alternative fuels.

"We can't get there alone," Ford said in a speech to the Business Roundtable, an organization of executives of the country's biggest companies.

Automakers frequently talk about the importance of government policies that consider industry needs. But Ford for the first time outlined a series of specific requests on energy.

He said government should:

Dramatically expand a federal tax credit for r&d.

Consider tax incentives to help companies, especially auto suppliers, convert outmoded plants to facilities for high-tech products, such as components for gasoline-electric hybrids.

Expand worker training and provide incentives to workers to upgrade their skills.

Require government agencies at all levels by 2010 to buy only hybrids or alternative-fuel vehicles.

Encourage service stations to sell an ethanol-gasoline blend so people with flexible-fuel vehicles can get E85, a fuel made mostly from U.S. crops. Automakers have built 5 million so-called flex-fuel vehicles.

Ford also repeated his call for a White House summit on energy issues. He said Tuesday he was going to meet with administration officials to discuss the proposal.

He told Automotive News his meetings would not include President Bush on this trip.

The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on research with the industry to develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Asked whether some of this money should go to more immediate needs, Ford said he does not believe it is an "either-or" proposition, and the country needs to do both.

The broader industry favors increased emphasis on advanced technology but has not had a chance to discuss Ford's specific proposals, said Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The alliance represents the Big 3 and six import-brand automakers.

In his speech, Ford said subsidies from the Japanese government are one reason Japan-based automakers took the lead in hybrid technology.
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:39   #2 (permalink)
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Re: US:Ford asks feds for energy help

Ford urges incentives for auto industry

Lawmakers are asked to devise policies to ensure the survival of U.S. manufacturing.

By Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau


Bill Ford Jr.

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. called on Washington lawmakers to offer tax incentives to promote environmentally friendly technology and help American manufacturers compete.

Rising gas prices have hurt demand for profitable SUVs, which Detroit's automakers count on for a major portion of their sales and profits.

Ford reported a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss in its core North American unit.

"For longer than we had reason to expect, this country has been relatively immune to the violent swings in supply and demand of a finite commodity," Ford said Tuesday in a policy speech at the National Press Club. "I think most of us suspected we were living on borrowed time; the volatility of the past year confirmed it."

Bill Ford called for a series of steps to help bring new fuel-saving advanced automotive technologies to market, including expanded tax credits for research and development, converting outmoded factories into high-tech facilities and retraining displaced workers.

He said the government could help boost the market for alternative fuel vehicles, like the Escape Hybrid SUV and flex-fuel cars and trucks, which run on gasoline or ethanol, by restricting government fleets to only such vehicles by 2010. Bill Ford has pledged the automaker will produce 250,000 hybrids a year by 2010. Right now, it has two hybrid sport utility vehicles on the market. It has announced plans to produce 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles in 2006

This was the third time over the past year Bill Ford has used a speech to bring government attention to issues facing Ford and other domestic automakers.

Last November, he called on auto industry executives to engage political leaders to lower health care costs. In September, Bill Ford called for a national summit to discuss the auto industry's role in solving national energy problems.

He reiterated his call for a national summit in Tuesday's speech. Later in the day, Ford met with senior officials in the Bush administration to discuss advanced technologies and the prospects for a summit.

"We were encouraged by their interest in what we are doing," Ford spokesman Ed Lewis said. "They still have our idea of a summit under review. They haven't ruled it out."

Concern about American manufacturing in Washington has spiked with the bankruptcy filing of Delphi Corp. The immediate concern of lawmakers has been to preserve the pensions of workers at companies in Chapter 11, like Delphi, Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Last week, the Senate passed legislation that would reform pension rules with an eye toward preserving the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that insures a minimum pension when companies default on their plans.

Automakers are concerned that some of the pension proposals would make it more difficult for them -- triggering higher pension plan payments based on poor credit ratings, for example. Only two senators voted against the pension bill: Michigan Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin.

In his Washington speech, Ford warned that Detroit's automakers still provide 90 percent of the automotive jobs in the United States and have purchased 80 percent of all U.S. auto parts, and that legacy is at stake.

He said the problems facing the auto industry were too big for the automakers to solve alone. Other countries had recognized the importance of industrial manufacturing and governments had devised policies to ensure their survival, Ford said.

"Now, more than ever, with the competitive pressures of globalization, America needs to respond to the economic challenges of our time," Ford said. "Our government must view the challenges of this era through the same lens -- and stand by American workers, and American industry, as it always has."
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