- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

1:20 p.m.

Leaders of the Big Three U.S. automakers rode to Capitol Hill in ethanol-powered vehicles today to seek lawmakers’ support on issues including energy policies, health care and competition from foreign cars.

General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford, and Tom LaSorda, president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, were holding a series of closed-door meetings with congressional leaders.

Auto industry officials said the meetings would center on energy issues such as making ethanol fuels more widely available, the industry’s challenges in meeting rising health care costs, trade issues and the need for more alternative-fuel vehicles.

“We hope to have some good dialogue about the energy policies of the United States,” Mr. Ford said outside the Capitol after stepping out of an F-series pickup truck. The Big Three executives arrived in vehicles powered by ethanol, decorated with images of cornstalks, to underscore their commitment to alternative fuels.

Domestic automakers have ramped up production of flexible fuel vehicles capable of running on gasoline and fuel blends of up to 85 percent ethanol. One of the obstacles, however, is finding pumps that offer ethanol — industry officials estimate that about 685 of the 165,000 fueling stations across the country offer ethanol blends, less than 1 percent of the stations.

The auto executives plan to meet in June with President Bush to talk about issues affecting the industry. A White House meeting tentatively planned for today was postponed because Mr. Bush is traveling to Arizona to discuss border security and immigration.

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