Despite the popular media’s fixation on battery power, automotive insiders are quick to caution that there is no “silver bullet” solution, no single technology that will likely meet all the needs for tomorrow’s clean and efficient automobiles.
That message was hammered home by the choice of the 2013 Ford Fusion as the Green Car of the Year, an award designed to focus the spotlight on the latest clean-tech automobiles.
A key to the decision was the fact that the new midsize sedan offers a broad range of powertrain alternatives, from conventional gasoline power up to an all-new plug-in hybrid.
“That’s an example of automotive democracy,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal, the organizer of the annual award.
Now in its eighth year, the Green Car of the Year Award has taken a decidedly independent – some would say counter-intuitive – approach to picking its winners. While several hybrids have claimed the coveted trophy, jurors have also honored diesels, such as the Audi A3 TDI. And this year’s five finalists included two gas-only models: the Eco version of the 2013 Dodge Dart, and the new Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv crossover.
What’s critical, explained Cogan, is recognizing that, while battery cars and plug-ins may deliver some extremely impressive mileage, most have limited sales potential “and don’t achieve much of an impact on the environment.” Technologies such as Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engines may not have quite the mpg numbers, but they can “set a broader example.”
In the case of the 2013 Ford Fusion, the maker has given buyers a broad palette to choose from, said Ford's marketing manager Dave Mondragon after accepting the Green Car award.
Mondragon said he was clearly pleased with the honor and hopes it will provide Ford with a way to show how much it has changed its approach to fuel economy. “We’ve moved from being the laggard to the leader,” he said, noting that the Detroit maker has higher mileage ratings on its products in every segment where it directly competes with Toyota.
The Japanese maker – which had hoped to snag the Green Car award with its own finalist, the new Prius C – not only has the best-selling hybrid on the market, the original Prius hatchback, but also has been able to burnish a reputation as the market’s green leader.
Ford hopes that the Green Car award will help it challenge Toyota’s perceptive lead, senior marketing executive Amy Marentec told TheDetroitBureau.com. This “absolutely” helps, she said, hinting that Ford will soon be promoting the honor in its advertising efforts for the Fusion – and possibly other products.
“We’re going to have to talk this up.”
The Green Car of the Year award was by no means the only indication at the LA Auto Show that the industry is searching for a broad portfolio of environmentally friendly solutions.
There were a number of pure battery-electric and plug-in models – such as the Chevrolet Spark EV and Honda Civic PHEV – unveiled at the annual show. But Audi announced four new diesel models, including a TDI version of the flagship A8. Mazda also lifted the cover on its new Mazda6, a midsize sedan that will share the CX-5’s SkyActiv gasoline engine but also get the new SkyActiv-D diesel during the second half of next year.
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