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

Enviro-Mich message from "Bill Tobler" <williamtobler@critterswoods.org>

I know that some don't like debates on EM, so I will be short.
I think I agree completely with Terry in his second paragraph. I can 
say Ford puts a considerable emphasis onto its salaried employees with 
regards to certain aspects of the social equation and also donates huge 
amounts of cash to various social activities including local, 
environmental projects.

In the third paragraph, it's kind of unrealistic to expect a 
manufacturer to spend a lot of money promoting a product that they are 
losing money on.  It was well rumored that when Prius was first 
introduced, that Toyota was subsidizing each sale (meaning they were 
losing money on each one). Of course they are not going to advertise 
selling more, that's the path to losing a ton of money very quickly. 
Their strategy was to claim that they are green, and then not actually 
have to be green.  Fortunately for them, the government saw fit to 
subsidize each sale for them.

I fully support the idea that environmental groups should be 
campaigning for higher fuel economy. My (lonely) voice as a consumer is 
that I want much higher fuel economy in the car that I drive (a 
Focus).  However, that push should be on ALL car companies and on all 
consumers. I was objecting to Ford being singled out once again in the 
original post to be slam dunked, and then applauding Toyota for the 
Prius when the consumer isn't buying the Prius.  I didn't feel that the 
criticism was either fair, accurate or constructive.  A collective 
groan that the American consumer wants more big behemoths and the 
industry is accommodating it IS appropriate.

It may well be true that Ford sees the need to subsidize the sale of 
more Focus cars to boost CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). I truly 
don't know. However, if the CAFE requirements are not met, then there 
is a large Federal fine against the company, and the stigma of not 
meeting the CAFE law. So it is preferable to lose more money 
stimulating Focus sales than to lose more money paying fines. Choose 
your poison.

My bottom line is that environmentalists should be working 
constructively with the manufacturers to create green products and to 
create green sales and to move more towards green behaviors. If you 
want to slam Ford for Excursions, then slam each company for their 
comparable sins too.

> This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
> 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
> 1-517-355-1751
> 1-517-432-9555(fax)
> link@msu.edu
> www.ecofoot.msu.edu
> -----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 
> 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 
> 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 
> 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.


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