U.S. Automakers called to regain market share through hybrid race with Japan

Detroit, MI (January 11, 2005) -- The more than 800,000 people converging on Detroit this week for the 2005 North American International Auto Show will see new ads running on the auto show Jumbotron, and on local Detroit cable stations, challenging Detroit to "do it, now", and build high-performance hybrids throughout their fleets.

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The ads, produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), connect hybrid production to the job creation and market share gain Detroit badly needs. Drivers passing the auto show will see fifty foot high images of autoworkers, cars, and the American flag, interspersed with exhortations to build hybrids for market share, jobs, and improved national security.

"Detroit is showing what American ingenuity can do," said Roland Hwang, NRDC Vehicles Policy Director. "But with foreign companies having gained such a head start, American automakers need to expand hybrid production throughout their fleet. And they need to do it now."

The ads air at the first North American auto show that prominently features U.S. automaker hybrid technology, including the Ford Hybrid Escape SUV, and amid announcements from Ford and General Motors of intentions to beef up hybrid production. The automakers are presumably responding to recent trends suggesting that Detroit's slow development of hybrid technologies have hurt their market share. In the past five years, combined U.S. market share for Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler has decreased nearly eight percent while Toyota and Honda's joint share has increased almost six percent.

Oil prices are also soaring, and remaining in, the $40-60 range due to booming demand and costly oil production in unstable regions suggesting a growing consumer desire for more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and SUVs. And while American automakers are starting to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, foreign competitors like Honda and Toyota are already selling their third- and fourth-generation hybrid vehicles.

On Tuesday the 18th at 2 p.m., Hwang will address journalists and industry executives at the 2005 Automotive News World Congress at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn (MI), describing the connection between market share and hybrid investment in more detail, and will be available for comment afterwards.