YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ford Seeks Veto of Carpool-Lane Shift

August 25, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

At Ford Motor Co., the new motto might be "Equality is Job 1."

Alarmed that rivals' electric-gasoline vehicles might get privileges in California's carpool lanes, Ford threw itself on the mercy of Hummer-driving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday and asked that all hybrids be treated the same.

Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. pleaded with the governor to veto a bill that would let hybrids that get at least 45 miles per gallon use carpool lanes even with only the driver on board.

At present, there are only three such vehicles on the market: Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius and Honda Motor Co.'s Insight and hybrid Civic cars.

That means the legislation "amounts to a 'Buy Japanese' bill," Ford said in a letter to Schwarzenegger, adding that it "puts our workers and stockholders at a competitive disadvantage precisely when Ford is entering the hybrid market with a family-oriented, no-compromise SUV."

The Ford hybrid Escape, which began production this month, averages 31 mpg on highways, according to U.S. regulators. That's a 50% improvement on the conventional version of the sport utility vehicle, Ford said.

State senators approved the bill by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) on Tuesday. She estimates that there are 75,000 vehicle owners in California who would qualify to sail solo in the carpool lane.

Sen. Ross Johnson (R- Irvine) labeled Ford "a billionaire crybaby," and Treasurer Phil Angelides, who backed the bill, piled on: "Any car company can produce fuel-efficient, clean vehicles if they want to. I think Bill Ford ought to spend more time figuring out how to out-compete the Japanese."

Schwarzenegger has said he will sign the bill, which is expected to be on his desk by the end of the week.

The measure would take effect only if Congress passes a transportation funding bill that has a provision endorsing the change. Such approval is needed because federal funds are used to build carpool lanes.

Los Angeles Times Articles