DETROIT - Ford of Europe hopes to gain the lead in offering environmentally friendly cars. The company will introduce six new vehicles powered by liquid propane gas and compressed natural gas over the next three years.
In the USA Ford claims to have 95 percent of the alternative-fuel vehicle market. The new European green Fords will be similar to those in the USA. Ford aims to sell about 10,000 alternative-fuel cars here over the next few years.
LPG and CNG versions of the Transit delivery vehicle have already been announced.
The Courier delivery vehicle and the Mondeo will also be offered with the alternative-fuel systems, said John Wallace, Ford's director of alternative-fuel vehicles.
The Mondeo is the base for the P2000 DIATA, a 27km-per-liter prototype. Europe was heavily involved in the vehicle's direct-injection engine, according to Richard Parry-Jones, Ford's new group vice president for product development.
Government fleets and taxis are expected to provide the bulk of European alternative-fuel-vehicle sales.
Wallace said Ford underwent a huge internal shift last year in its attitude toward alternative fuels and the environment.
Wallace and others, including Ford board member William Clay Ford, pushed the environmental view in corporate discussions last summer.
'There was a lot of talk about citizenship and the environment,' he said. Chairman Alex Trotman and operations boss Jacques Nasser participated. 'We had access to the top of the house.'
Then last autumn, said Wallace, 'there was a real fork in the road.' Trotman and Nasser approved a plan to spend some $60 million to cut emissions of all Ford sport-utilities by 75 percent.
The project costs less than $100 per vehicle, mainly in engine controls and better catalysts.
'We decided we have to show more leadership, especially in trucks,' said Wallace. 'We have no interest in not being the leader.'