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Ford's Mulally sets out vague "sustainability blueprint" in LA

Ford's Mulally sets out vague "sustainability blueprint" in LA

Will 'green talk' save the Blue Oval?
Will 'green talk' save the Blue Oval? CNET Networks

It has become de rigeur for automakers to pay lip service to a future of alternative fuels and increased efficiency, and Ford's CEO Alan Mulally chipped in his two cents here on the first day of the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show. Aside from his commitment to deliver a line of vehicles that "people do want and people do value", Mulally said that he wanted to "start a discussion" about sustainability, fuel economy, and energy security. In the near term, Mulally said Ford plans to offers more turbo-charged gasoline direct-injection engines, lighter-weight cars, and new fuel-saving transmissions to increase fuel economy.

Among the changes consumers can expect to see will be a 10 percent more-fuel-efficient Ford Taurus due to a transmission changes, an 8 percent more-fuel-efficient 2008 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, a 3 percent more-fuel-efficient Ford Focus, and a Ford F-150 pick-up that gets 1 mpg more than usual, according to Ford. Mulally, a former Boeing executive, said that weight-saving was also a key part of Ford's strategy for improving its models' gas mileage, and he highlighted the company's increased use of steel-, aluminum-, and titanium alloys and composites materials.

On the subject of alternative fuels, Mulally was more vague. Aside from a commitment to make half of its fleet flex-fuel compatible by 2012, Mulally suggested Ford was looking at a range of series- and parallel-hybrid technologies, including diesel-electric models. He neglected, however, to offer details of new initiatives beyond those already announced for the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, scheduled for production in 2008.

On plug-in hybrids, he highlighted Ford's upcoming partnership with Southern California Edison. Ford will supply the electric utility with a Ford Escape Hybrid Plug-in, but Mulally said it would be a mistake to put a time commitment on the production of such advanced technology.

On Ford's plans for hydrogen-fuel cell development, details were even more scarce. Despite stating that Ford was working to accelerate hydrogen technology "as fast as possible," Mulally trotted out the familiar view that infrastructure is the main challenge to hydrogen adoption.

While Ford may talk the green talk, it's important to note that the company is among the automakers opposed to CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy ) standards that would require a company's consumer line of cars, when combined, to offer average gas mileage of 35 mpg by 2020.

CNET's Candace Lombardi contributed to this article