- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

DETROIT, April 18 (UPI) — Three years ago, when record profits were rolling in, then-Ford Motor Co. CEO Jacques Nasser vowed to improve fuel economy of SUVs by 25 percent.

Three years later, both Nasser and the automaker's self-imposed mid-decade deadline for improving the fuel-efficiency of sport-utility vehicles are history.

Ford officials said they won't meet the 2005 deadline dubbed "25 in five."

Phil Martens, vice president of product development for North American, said Ford instead will try to improve fuel economy of all its vehicles 20 percent to 30 percent by 2010.

The SUV goal is "an important target," Martens told Friday's Detroit Free Press. "We have pushed it out a little bit."

Martens said Ford, which posted a $896 million first-quarter profit after losing $6.4 billion over the last two years, has to cut $1,000 to $2,000 in added costs from its all-new F-150 pickup by 2006.

Improving the best-selling truck's interior, adding cargo space and a bigger engine sent the cost of the redesigned pickup skyrocketing. The new F-150 debuts June 16.

Because of its cost-cutting turnaround plan Ford said "it's going to be extremely difficult" to achieve the landmark fuel efficiency goals set by Nasser and current CEO and Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., an environmentalist.

The automaker has improved mileage of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury SUVs about 7 percent since 2000 but opposes raising the mandatory federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 20.5 miles per gallon for trucks.

"Everyone wants it done tomorrow," said Martens. "You don't just do this, the way we want to do it, tomorrow."

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