Hybrid Owners at LA Auto Show Press Detroit for Cleaner Cars

Hybrid owners at rally include actresses.

Published: 05-Jan-2003

LOS ANGELES -- More than 70 hybrid cars were parked outside the Los Angeles Convention Center to send a message to Detroit automakers: There is a demand for fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles.

The gathering on Friday, with its mix of everyday hybrid owners from Sacramento to San Diego, as well as Hollywood celebrities, contrasted with the muscle cars and gas-guzzling SUVs inside at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show.

"We're here to show that people are interested in something to promote clean air with less fuel," said Jessie Williams, who drove his Toyota Prius from El Cajon.

Actress Nancy Allen traded her Volvo in for a Prius last July.

"It's so peppy," she said. "Every day I drive it, I feel I'm giving something back to the environment and giving something back to myself."

The protest came as the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report concluding that American-made cars and trucks could reach an average of 60 miles per gallon by the end of the next decade by adopting the best hybrid technology.

Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor. Some cars, like the Prius, use the electric motor exclusively at low speeds, while others, such as Honda's Civic, use power from both at all speeds.

Hybrids cost more than conventional cars. But buyers can qualify for a federal tax deduction and local tax incentives in some areas.

Chrysler Group President Dieter Zetsche downplayed hybrids in a speech Thursday, saying that fuel cell technology is the ultimate answer and that improving existing diesel technology is a better short-term alternative.

Ford is producing a hybrid SUV and introduced a reduced-emissions Focus at the show Thursday.

Actress Donna Mills stopped driving her Lexus when she bought one of the first Prius hybrids 2 1/2 years ago.

"Enough already with being dependent on foreign countries for oil or drilling in the Arctic for oil," she said. "People want these cars. People love them. Make them."

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