Ford Lays Out “Blueprint to Sustainability”



Ford plans to take aggressive steps to create “safer, more fuel-efficient, quality products,” declared the embattled automaker’s CEO, Alan Mulally, during his keynote address at this year’s Los Angeles auto show.

Mulally’s environmentally-friendly speech underscored the green theme of the annual event, where virtually every automaker had a hybrid, fuel cell vehicle or high-mileage diesel to unveil — or to promise for the future.


While Ford has been the most aggressive of the Big Three in entering the hybrid market, it’s also taken hits for its less efficient big trucks, and failure to meet past targets, such as its 25-in-5 program, a promise to boost SUV mileage by 25 percent over five years. But Mulally insisted that the automaker is set to deliver.


Ford, said the former Boeing executive, “is committed to offering customers affordable, environmentally-friendly technologies in vehicles they really want.” That ranges from today’s hybrids to next-generation plug-in hybrids and futuristic hydrogen cars.


In his speech, a subsequent question-and-answer session, and a company hand-out, Mulally outlined various steps Ford will take. Among them, a goal is “to make all our vehicles flexible fuel vehicles,” which can use either gasoline biofuels or a mix of both. By 2012, half of all Ford products will be flexible fuel-capable.


In the mid- to long-term, the automaker intends to trim from 250 to 750 pounds off the weight of its vehicles, a move that would directly yield sizable fuel savings. New powertrains and more efficient transmissions are under development, as well as related technologies that would improve fuel efficiency, such as better aerodynamics, advanced electric steering, and next-generation hybrids.


Mulally pointed to several recent accomplishments, such as a new 3.5-liter V-6 that is part of the Taurus sedan package, helping to achieve a ten-percent reduction in fuel consumption.


Critical to Ford’s plans, Mulally insisted, is the goal of putting advanced technology into mass production, rather than offering it on low-volume niche products. “The real benefit,” he insisted, can only be achieved “when we get this enabling technology across volumes — not 100s of vehicles, not thousands, but millions.”


But in the near term, Ford’s plans call for a variety of low-volume prototypes, such as the Escape Hybrid plug-in the automaker will deliver to Southern California Edison next month as part of a project designed to test both the commercial and technical viability of that technology.


Unlike its crosstown rival, GM, Mulally said Ford is not ready to set a timetable for rolling out a production plug-in. GM hopes to have a commercial version of its Chevrolet Volt concept vehicle ready for sale by 2010.


Mulally admitted Ford has let other makers gain the public eye with green machines, such as the Toyota Prius hybrid.


“We haven’t been telling our story,” he complained, but the L.A. speech is clearly designed to start getting that story out to the public.


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