Ford can't escape the crosshairs of green groups
For environmental activists, automaker is No. 1 target for its low fuel economy.
By Ann Job / Special to The Detroit News
SAN FRANCISCO -- General Motors Corp. sells as many big, heavy Hummers as it can, and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group is adding gas-hungry Hemi V-8 engines to an ever-increasing number of vehicles. Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co.p. are adding bigger SUVs and pickup trucks with thirsty engines to their U.S. lineups.
But it's Ford Motor Co., especially chief executive officer Bill Ford Jr., which remains singularly in the crosshairs of some environmental groups because of its lagging fuel economy.
Even today, three months after Ford became the first automaker in the world to offer consumers a fuel-thrifty, gasoline-electric hybrid sport utility vehicle -- the Escape Hybrid -- the Sierra Club, Bluewater Network and Rainforest Action Network make no apologies for continuing to target the carmaker. And although there are no specific plans in place yet, they expect to continue their grassroots assault in 2005 by staging more "Days of Intervention" against the automaker.
All three groups worked with other environmental organizations on an "International Day of Intervention against Ford" last month.
Organizers estimated that hundreds of grassroots supporters in more than 40 cities in the United States and Canada went to Ford dealerships to protest or meet with dealer personnel and talk about Ford's poor ranking in average fleet fuel economy, which has been the lowest among major automakers in each of the last five years.
Boston; New Orleans; Boulder, Colo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Oakland and San Rafael, Calif.; Des Moines and Wichita, Kan., as well as Vancouver and Edmonton in Canada, were among the cities that had protesters.
Organizers said they planned future days of intervention against Ford that might include the Wolverine state.
"Our sole focus is Ford," said Russell Long, who founded the San Francisco-based Bluewater Network eight years ago. "The No. 1 reason (is) Mr. Ford made all those pledges" to improve fuel economy, then the company retreated from its publicized goal of improving its SUV fuel economy by 25 percent over five years, Long said.
Bluewater is the 20,000-member organization that petitioned the California legislation to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016. Automakers are fighting the law because they say it forces improvements in fuel economy, a policy area that is regulated by federal, rather than state, authorities. The group depicted Bill Ford as a fibbing Pinocchio in newspaper ads early this year and is among the parties that want Ford's fleet fuel economy to reach 50 miles per gallon by 2010.
Brendan Bell of the Sierra Club's Washington, D.C.-based global warming program, also cited Bill Ford's interest in the environment as the reason Ford Motor is being spotlighted over other automakers.
"Bill Ford's name goes on every car they sell," Bell said. "Americans understand it's his company, and Bill Ford has said we need to address (environmental issues)."
Jennifer Krill, zero emissions campaign director for the 20,000-member Rainforest Action Network, said, "People expect more from Ford (Motor) because of the company's history of innovation."
Based in San Francisco, Rainforest focuses on the loss and degradation of the Earth's forests and was behind a high-profile, successful effort to end the Home Depot's sales of wood that comes from endangered forests. But like many environmental groups today, Rainforest considers global warming one of the environmental issues it must address.
Chrysler isn't targeted the way Ford is, Bell said, because the company's merger with Germany's Daimler-Benz means decisions aren't necessarily made by Americans. He implied that a campaign against Chrysler would be more complicated than one directed at Ford.
And making an impact on GM is difficult because the company has so many brands.
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