Feet of Clay
The Ford Motor Company might have to eat its words if its fleet of sport utility vehicles continues to gobble gas. Last summer, company reps promised to improve SUV fuel efficiency 25 percent by 2005. Not willing to be outdone, the two other Big Three automakers — General Motors and DaimlerChrysler — said they’d keep pace with Ford. Now, though, they question whether the goal is attainable. New CEO William Clay Ford, Jr., is known for his unusually eco-friendly outlook, but his company’s entire fleet of vehicles currently averages just 23.9 miles per gallon. (G.M. averages 24.2 mpg, while DaimlerChrysler averages 23.1 mpg.) The auto industry intends to use technological innovations such as hybrid electric-gas engines and other, more incremental improvements like lighter vehicles and better transmissions to improve fuel efficiency, but they caution that the changes won’t be as swift as Ford predicted.