By Noel Adams
This year the first day of the LA auto show started half an hour early so the sun was low in a cloudless sky as I drove along the 10 freeway towards the Convention Center.
After grabbing a quick breakfast I skipped over to catch the keynote address which this year was given by Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company. The presentation started with a short film of the Ford 999 fuel cell car accelerating up to 200 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The car looked like it still had plenty of go in it as it hit the 200 mph mark but they didn’t push it beyond that.
Mr. Mulally, who came to Ford from Boeing, focused the first part of his talk on the efforts to move the company back to profitability. The company has been trimming down, working to get production to match sales so that they could cut costs. He told us that Ford is on track to return to profitability by 2009.
Then he spent a short time talking about Ford’s blueprint for Sustainability. It was a statement about how Ford was becoming more environmentally aware, something that would keep echoing around the halls of the convention center as each manufacturer showed their latest line-up of cars.
Mr. Mulally said “Ford is committed to offering customers affordable environmentally friendly technologies in vehicles they really want”. He talked about leveraging the investment in Petrol and Diesel in the short term, increasing fuel efficiency by reducing weight and improving aerodynamics. Over the long term Ford is investing in plug-in hybrids and fuel cells.
He also talked about moving away from a focus on trucks and SUVs, and start offering a complete range of vehicles. He said that selling a hundred or even a thousand vehicles would have little impact, but if they can improve fuel efficiency on a million vehicles that is how Ford could make a difference.
Finally he mentioned that Ford is going to be delivering plug-in hybrids to Southern California Edison for testing by the end of this year.
After the keynote speech, I moved down to the West hall where Lincoln unveiled the MKS. The MKS has been engineered for lower weight and is expected to deliver 17mpg in town and 24mpg on the highway.
Next I moved over to the Honda stand. This year, “green” vehicles seemed thin on the ground. Gone was the gas sipping Honda Insight and the gas guzzling Honda Accord Hybrid. The civic Hybrid and the Civic GX natural gas vehicle were still there though, and are still two of the three most eco-friendly vehicles being sold by a major manufacturer.