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Ford Causes Emissions Controversy.

Ford's announcement that its 2000 F-Series pickups will meet the 2004 low-emissions standards sent the industry scampering for cover, and it's not because the other automakers can't catch up. They are trying to figure out if the market really cares about environmental cleanliness.

If so, the industry could claim government mandates are no longer necessary because the market is demanding lower-emissions vehicles.

For its part, Ford seems to believe those vehicles will attract more customers. Some experts think it is just one more strategic step in Ford's plan to overtake General Motors as the world's largest automaker. "It gives Ford the image of being progressive, which could mean increased market share," says Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, a non-profit group founded by former U.S. Senators Edmund Muskie and Robert Stafford. "Personally, I think it is going to overtake General Motors."

Ford's declaration also seems to fly in the face of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers' (AAM) strategy to force the EPA to do a better job justifying its air quality regulations. Just three days before the Ford announcement the AAM, which includes all major automakers, won a lawsuit against the EPA. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the Agency inadequately justified certain National Ambient Air Quality Standards it set for ozone and particulate matter effective 2008.

So how does Ford square its participation in and support of a suit aimed at getting the EPA to better justify air quality regulations with its decision to meet and even exceed standards for light trucks ahead of schedule?

Ford "did not file and was not part of the suit," says Ellen Dickson, spokeswoman for the automaker's environmental strategy public affairs office. "We're not going to make any comment." AAM spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist maintains they are "two separate issues." One is the process by which standards are set; the other is the goal the standards are intended to achieve. "We need sound science," she says.

Still, the Ford declaration leaves fellow AAM members scrambling to put a positive stamp on their environmental projects and downplay Ford's. "Since Ford says it can do it, why can't GM and DaimlerChrysler do the same thing?." asks O'Donnell. "The fact is there is no new technology (that) the Ford decision has added," says GM spokesman Tony Cervone. "GM has chosen a different direction. We would hope that people would look at the macro picture. GM is looking at breakthrough technology," not merely adding another catalytic converter and re-programming an engine controller.

"That's just sort of the latest example of what all automakers are doing to advance technology," says a spokeswoman for DaimlerChrysler, noting the 2001 Dodge Dakota is already covered by EPA standards for that year. DaimlerChrysler, she says, is focusing on cleaner fuels for diesel engines and compressed natural gas.

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Author:Lankard, Tom
Publication:Automotive Industries
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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