Activists Stage 'Sit-in' to Protest Recall of Ford Electric Vehicles

Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange join 'Jumpstart Ford' protest in Sacramento.

Published: 18-Jan-2005

lass=content>SACRAMENTO -- Drivers of two electric-powered Ford Ranger pickup trucks have vowed to remain at a Capitol-area Ford dealer until the Ford Motor Company allows them to buy their leased vehicles rather than turn them in to be scrapped.

The California drivers said their 1999 pickups require no fuel, cost almost nothing to maintain and spare the nation from dependence on foreign oil. But Ford wants the vehicles back, they said, and plans to destroy them.

"I'm really proud of the fact that I drive a vehicle that doesn't have a tailpipe," said Heather Bernifkoff-Raboy, 34, a health care worker from Mariposa County.

Bernifkoff-Raboy, and her husband, David, 33, said they've leased the electric truck for $490 a month from Ford since 2000, using it to haul hay, rock and supplies for their 160-acre Catheys Valley Ranch.

But the Ford Ranger pickup and another leased by William Korthof, 27, of Pomona, are caught in an old skirmish between California regulators, clean air activists and American automakers over the future of cleaner-burning cars.

The Rangers are among about 1,500 leased by Ford during the late 1900s to comply with requirements that 5 percent of cars sold in California by 2001 have zero emissions. But the requirement has since been suspended due to a lawsuit by automakers, and Ford says it's now shifting to hybrid vehicles powered by electricity and gasoline.

With the leases expired, it's calling in the electric pickup trucks.

"I think we've moved on from electric vehicles and our focus is more on hybrids," Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said on Saturday. "Just look at the customer reaction. They're much more popular than the electric vehicles."

The holiday weekend's small protest is part of a series of "Jumpstart Ford" demonstrations at Ford dealers nationally and in Canada where activists call attention to Ford's fuel economy, which they call worst among the nation's carmakers.

Saturday's event featured the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange, along with local groups and an elected director of the city's locally owned utility, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

"People love these cars. I'm disappointed that car makers are withdrawing these vehicles," said Peter Keat, who said SMUD uses electric vehicles in its fleet.

Korthof says he leased his electric Ranger pickup for $489 a month to haul supplies for his solar power installation company. He said it's required almost no maintenance.

"This is a good idea," he said. "We need vehicles that don't use any gasoline at all."

Suris said Ford is building 20,000 Escape hybrid sport utility vehicles this year and plans to manufacture five hybrid models within three years.

On the Net:

Jumpstart Ford Campaign: http://www.jumpstartford.com

Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com

Bernifkoff-Raboy site: http://www.dontcrush.com

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