More Action Still Needed to Save Oil, Get U.S. Automakers Back on Track for New Era

WASHINGTON (September 21, 2005) -- Ford Motor Company's announcement today that it plans to increase yearly hybrid vehicle production ten-fold by 2010 is a bold and important step that puts the company far ahead of its U.S. competitors, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It also shows how far auto companies and policymakers have left to go in an era of soaring pump prices and rising volatility in petroleum markets.

"Bill Ford deserves tremendous credit for moving his company in the direction it needs to go. The collapse of the gas-guzzling SUV market has cost American carmakers billions in profits and thousands of good jobs, because management missed the boat on fuel economy performance," said Roland Hwang, NRDC's chief automotive analyst. "This is the first real sign that Detroit is hearing what the marketplace is saying."

By contrast, General Motors is betting heavily on yet another generation of full-size, conventional SUVs to revive its flagging fortunes

While praising Ford for its commitment to advanced, energy saving technology, NRDC said even bigger steps are needed to effectively curb our oil dependence. For example, the 250,000 hybrids Ford is promising to sell each year represent just 7.5 percent of the company's projected U.S. sales. To help the United States achieve real energy security and reduce emissions responsible for global warming, all auto companies will have to go well beyond these voluntary targets, Hwang said.

"This is a sign of how far we've come over the last few years, but it also shows just how much farther we need to go. It's time for Washington to step up and deliver new fuel economy performance standards that set sensible targets for the entire industry," Hwang said.

NRDC has called on Congress to enact a national commitment to save 2.5 million barrels per day by 2015, and 10 million barrels per day by 2025. A similar measure passed the Senate twice during the 2003 and 2005 energy bill debate, but later was dropped.

In July, NRDC and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation released a joint study demonstrating the financial and employment risks facing Detroit's Big Three due to rising gas prices, and underlining the companies' competitive disadvantage compared to their Japanese counterparts. (To read the press release, click here.)