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New York Times lead editorial endorses flex-fuel plug-in hybrids

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  • Felix Kramer
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/opinion/24tue1.html?hp January 24, 2006 Editorial Trying to Find the Road Ahead With its bonds downgraded to junk and its
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2006
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/opinion/24tue1.html?hp

      January 24, 2006
      Editorial
      Trying to Find the Road Ahead

      With its bonds downgraded to junk and its market share on the ropes,
      Detroit's auto industry almost looks to be in a free fall. Ford Motor
      Company's announcement yesterday that after three straight quarters
      of North American losses, it will close as many as 14 factories and
      eliminate up to 30,000 jobs by 2012 is another sign of dark days in
      the Motor City. What's really sad is that Ford is in such bad shape
      that few people think the restructuring and job cuts are too
      aggressive, even though they were larger than many auto industry
      analysts had been expecting.

      That's not all that surprising when you consider that earlier this
      month, the Chinese automaker Geely did something no Chinese company
      had ever done. At Detroit's auto show, it unveiled a Chinese car that
      Geely plans to upgrade and sell in the United States in 2008. The
      price for what could be China's first foray into America's overheated
      love affair with cars: around $10,000.

      The American auto industry is used to getting its head handed to it
      on a silver platter by Toyota and the Japanese. Judging from the
      reaction to Geely at the auto show, American automakers may soon be
      adding the Chinese to their list of global competitors. One
      DaimlerChrysler employee, checking out Geely's 7151 CK model, which
      seats five and is about the size of a Honda Civic, told the Voice of
      America: "If I didn't work for DaimlerChrysler, I would consider it
      as one of my buying options." Ouch.

      The United Automobile Workers union was absolutely right to say, as
      it did yesterday, that Ford would be better off trying to design more
      appealing cars and trucks. The reality is that all the job cuts in
      the world won't help if Ford, and General Motors, for that matter,
      continue to shy away from offering more Americans many more cars that
      can run on fuels other than gasoline. With the global oil market
      operating at close to zero excess capacity, oil prices are not coming
      down anytime soon. To handle that, the auto bigwigs in Detroit
      should, for starters, be making sure that every new car they roll out
      is a flexible-fuel car.

      Beyond that, Ford should be putting more into developing plug-in
      hybrid vehicles, which can be plugged into the electricity grid, and
      a lot less into gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. Company
      officials are talking about developing a new small car, along the
      lines of the ubiquitous SmartCars prevalent on European roads. That's
      good, but it would behoove Ford to make sure that it doesn't lose
      sight of the larger issue. "Oil prices are not going down, they're
      going up," said Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the
      Analysis of Global Security, based in Washington. "And if you don't
      have a car that can deal with that, you're dead."

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      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/calcars-news
      http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/priusplus
      http://www.seattleeva.org/wiki/EAA-PHEV
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