Introduction of the world's first gasoline-electric hybrid sport-utility vehicle has environmentalists offering up differing views about Ford Motor Co.'s environmental record.
A Sierra Club official said, ``Today is a great day for the environment, American workers and Ford'' when the company began production of the Escape hybrid vehicle at its Claycomo, Mo., assembly plant in early August.
But a coalition of other groups used the unveiling as an opportunity to blast the company for its overall fuel economy.
``We're pleased to see that Ford is bringing a hybrid vehicle to market, but we're still waiting for its overall plan,'' said Jennifer Krill of the Rainforest Action Network. ``If Ford wants to position itself as an environmental leader, it needs to do more than produce one improved vehicle in limited quantities.''
The company, meanwhile, expects to build 20,000 Escape hybrids during the first year of production.
``Escape Hybrid is our first production vehicle aimed at mainstream consumers powered by anything other than an internal combustion engine,'' Chairman and CEO Bill Ford said.
The Escape Hybrid will produce 97 percent less hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions than vehicles that meet the current Tier I emissions standard, the company said.
Andy Acho, Ford's top environmental official, said the company might not be moving as fast as some people might like, but Ford is making a good-faith effort. ``I feel pretty strongly about striving to make the world a better place,'' he said.
``We're going to continue to do more,'' Mr. Acho said about the company's work with different technologies.