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E-M:/ RE: / RE: Big Gulp

Bill, and others  ,


I’m mostly a lurker and a poster of announcements and rarely enter the fray around some of the issues that get aired here. Let me dare to venture forth into this one.


I confess to a limited knowledge of the complexities of the issues. I would argue that along with the environmental criteria Bill is suggesting that be considered in a true life-cycle assessment of the production of the autos in question, there also be a major social component added. Whose employees are better cared for - salaries, benefits, opportunities for advancement, ratio between salaries of managers versus laborers, etc; How do these companies treat their communities – investments, pollution, taxes, longevity, etc.; And how much transportation is involved in the bringing of parts back and forth across the planet. I don’t know, but these are questions I feel should be part of the sustainability equation.


What troubles me about the excuse from most of the auto companies (my dad worked for Ford and Chrysler for a combined 35 years) about reacting to the demand by consumers is they spend millions creating the demand. When the first minivan was created, Chrysler spent a fortune marketing the hell out of it. The same is true of the SUV, and the Pontiac Transam, yada, yada, yada. The Toyota folks put almost nothing into marketing the Prius. I see Ford is all of a sudden marketing the Focus. They must need to bring up the fleet average fuel economy at the end of the year. This is how my young family would buy the old Ford Escorts. The lack of marketing is a major reason for the lack of consumer demand for these types of vehicles. Until a company feels it has developed a product and is willing to invest heavily in a marketing approach, they will remain a small part of the market.


Doesn’t anyone on this list think there is a market of a “green car”?


Now I know that begs the question of whether we should rely on either non-fossil fueled vehicles, or mass transit, or other choices than single-occupant vehicles. And if we have “greener cars” would we then feel better about driving and thus negate the gains by driving more? You see I have more questions than answers….


Terry Link, Director

Office of Campus Sustainability

525 S. Kedzie

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI 48824






-----Original Message-----
From: William Tobler [mailto:WilliamTobler@CrittersWoods.org]
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 8:16 PM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: E-M:/ RE: Big Gulp


As a Ford employee and an environmentalist (I hope this is not an oxymoron), I do everything I can to influence the interests of higher fuel economy within the scope of both my job and my personal life.  And I get very frustrated about this.  And NO, I have no influence on decisions to build this or that.  However, the grim reality is that Ford is in business, first to survive, and also hopefully to make some profit again some day.  You may have read about the struggling to meet the first objective, and of the many thousands and thousands of jobs lost to valued employees.  The other reality is the Toyota's Prius sold only about 15,000 units in the entire United States last year, and I believe this was with substantial tax incentives to help Toyota sell these cars.  Given that there was essentially no competition, this is not a resounding marketplace endorsement.  I have read about the hoopla of the Prius II, and IF the numbers are true, then Toyota is to be congratulated on their technical achievement.  However, I have yet to find anything but technical pap regarding the means used to achieve the numbers.


It is much to early to see if the American marketplace will make this a financial success as well.  Success in the Tokyo market doesn't really mean much.


I wonder if anyone has had the chance to do the entire environmental assessment from cradle to grave?  I truly have not seen one.  This not only includes energy consumption from cradle to grave including manufacturing and disposal, but also the reality that batteries and electronics are not exactly environmentally clean on the manufacturing and disposal ends of the process.  Another issue is repair and environmental costs involving battery pack replacement.  Without a strong battery pack, the Prius concept doesn't work.  I believe an average car today lasts substantially longer than any existing battery technology.  Battery replacement, you know, is a little bit more than a couple of EverReadies.  Will old Priuses go to the junkyard early?  At what total environmental cost?  I haven't seen these assessments; but I also expect that it won't come out too pretty from an environmental perspective.


The bottom line is that Ford as a manufacturer will go where they perceive and find profitability. Profitability comes from consumer demand.  You may have noticed that Toyota is getting into the big car, big SUV, big truck market more and more.  Why?  Where is your criticism of that move?


I would suggest that instead of beating up on only Ford, that you beat up on Toyota for moving to larger vehicles, and you beat up on GM for making Hummers, and you beat up on Daimler Chrysler for making 1000 HP cars.  And most of all, you should beat up on the American consumer for his/her preference for these behemoths.  How about an educational campaign to bring about a substantial consumer demand for a fuel efficient but well built car?  Genuine demand that will support pricing so that any company can actually afford to make them without taxpayer subsidy?


Ford is not without blame, but it is not nearly as lopsided as you present.  Yeah, I know. We're in league with the oil companies surpressing the 60mpg carburetor.