Well, Tommy LaSorda, Pres. and CEO of Chrysler, can say it best. Here is a snippet of a Speech he gave to the Detroit Economic Club on January 23, 2006.....
A second critical intersection of industry and public policy where we can make a difference in the near term is at the issue of energy.
The key forces shaping energy policy at a national level are what can be described as the "4 G's," namely, God, guns, growth and green.
- God: as in "acts of God" such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita that expose the fragile state of domestic oil refinement capability
- Guns: as in the undue influence many fear our dependence on Middle Eastern oil wields over foreign policy (by providing an economic base for terrorism and resulting in the need for military interventions)
- Growth: as in the dramatic growth of the economies of China and India that is driving up global demand for oil
- Greens: as in the pressures to reduce emissions, and respond to the issue of climate change
Ultimately, an effective response to all of the above boils down to this: Use less oil. More cleanly and efficiently burn the petroleum-based fuels we do use. Find alternatives.
And do it all without adversely affecting the economy.
Clearly, the federal government, and not just the auto industry, has a leading role to play in achieving those goals.
We stand our best chance of success when we work hand-in-hand to achieve them.
Take the example of fuel cell technology. Today, hydrogen appears to be the eventual successor to fossil fuels and a long-term energy solution.
On the strength of government and industry partnerships, we've made good progress in advancing hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
DaimlerChrysler alone has already put a total of 100 hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles on the road around the world. That's significantly more than any other manufacturer.
And we're demonstrating the viability of the fuel cell in the entire fleet of vehicles—from small passenger cars to delivery vans to large mass transit buses.
Government-industry fuel cell partnerships are working. And they will continue to be absolutely vital to providing a jumpstart to the significant investment necessary to develop fuel cell technology and a hydrogen infrastructure.
But, if we can work together toward solving our long-term energy, environmental and national security needs—what can we do in a similar vein in the near term?
The answer is plenty!
Again, we in industry need to do our part to improve fuel efficiency and emissions. And we are.
One alternative is hybrid-drive technology. Toyota, Honda and Ford have taken the lead in bringing gas-electric hybrid technology to the market.
We're working with General Motors and BMW to jointly develop a state-of the art, two-mode, full hybrid propulsion architecture. (We'll introduce a hybrid version of our Dodge Durango in the 2008 model year.)
Yet another alternative is the diesel engine.
Diesels haven't been widely accepted in the U.S., but they account for roughly 40 percent of the new car market in Europe.
In 2005, about two-thirds of the Chrysler and Jeep® vehicles that we sold in Europe were diesel powered.
Modern, clean diesels are a new breed of engine.
They can improve fuel economy by up to 30 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 12 percent compared to an equivalent gas engine, and they provide durable and smooth performance.
According to the EPA, if we had a light-duty vehicle population that was one-third diesel, we'd save up to 1.4 million barrels of oil per day in the U.S. That's the amount of oil the U.S. currently imports from Saudi Arabia.
If Chrysler Group's diesel mix in the U.S. were the same as it is in Europe, our CAFE would improve by three miles per gallon!
Last year the Chrysler Group became the first North American-based manufacturer to offer a modern diesel engine in this market in our Jeep Liberty. (By the way, customer demand for the diesel Liberty exceeded our expectations. Sales topped our target by more than 70 percent!)
Our sister company, Mercedes-Benz, and our competitor, Volkswagen also offer diesels here. And we expect to see other manufacturers offering diesels in the U.S. in the not too distant future as well.
This year DaimlerChrysler will bring to this market the cleanest and most fuel-efficient diesel technology in the world, called BLUETEC. We introduced it in a Mercedes E-Class at the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit just two weeks ago.
To give you a benchmark for performance, the Mercedes E320 full-size sedan, powered by a six-cylinder BLUETEC diesel engine, will be the cleanest diesel in the world.
It delivers the torque of an eight-cylinder, and 35 miles-per-gallon in real-world driving.
And, it has the potential to meet emissions standards in all 50 states. That's a very attractive proposition!
While diesel technology alone can make big strides toward helping us meet our national energy, environment, and security objectives, when you add biodiesel and other biofuels, it gets really interesting.
We think biofuels are a win-win proposition.
Biofuels represent a huge opportunity to reduce our consumption of conventional petroleum-based fuel (and our dependence on foreign oil).
Biofuels reduce lifecycle CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions, because the plants from which they're derived absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth.
Biofuels reduce tailpipe emissions of particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons compared with conventional diesel fuel.
And biofuels support the American agricultural economy. I'd like to focus for a moment on two promising biofuels: biodiesel, and gas-ethanol flex fuel.
Every Jeep Liberty CRD we build leaves the assembly line in Toledo, Ohio, fueled with B5 - a renewable fuel with a 5 percent biodiesel mix derived from locally-grown soy beans.
We want to go that one better.
I am pleased to announce that beginning with our 2007 model year Dodge Ram, we will endorse the use of B20—a 20 percent biodiesel mix—for use by our military, government and commercial fleet customers. We believe that allowing our fleet customers to use fuel made to the current military specification will help accelerate the development and adoption of a national B20 specification for general use.
To support this effort, we have teamed up with the Detroit-based nonprofit NextEnergy, the nation's largest chain of biodiesel refiners, industry-leading suppliers and local universities to conduct much needed research and field testing. We even plan to study the use of biodiesel crops as possible tools to remediate old brownfield sites.
Gas-ethanol flex-fuel is another option we need to revisit.
Since 1998 the Chrysler Group has provided to customers more than 1.5 million E-85 flex-fuel (a gas-ethanol mix) minivans, cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.
Unfortunately, virtually all of those vehicles (some of you may even be driving them) are running on pure gasoline, due to the lack of a fuel infrastructure.
I guess we disproved the, "If you build it, they will come" theory!
But flex-fuels can work, when government policy gets behind them and encourages infrastructure development. Just look south to Brazil.
Brazil had an excess of sugarcane, wanted less dependence on petroleum and more concern for the environment. It aligned its interests and became a leader in flex-fuel adoption.
Flex-fuel vehicles have accounted for about 40 percent of annual sales. And that number is growing, hitting more than 70 percent of total vehicle sales for this past December. In 2006, Brazil expects to be energy independent.
Back here at home, our current product plan commits us to producing, by the 2008 model year, just under 500,000 flexible fuel vehicles annually for our U.S. fleet. That's roughly 25 percent of our production. If all of them were operated on E-85 instead of gasoline, it would save 250 million gallons of petroleum per year—roughly the amount of oil we import from Libya each year.
Incentives for the introduction of biofuels and E-85 FFVs should continue to help reach the "critical mass" of vehicles on the road required to help spur the necessary fuel infrastructure development.
Biofuels are proof that at least part of the solution to our energy, environment and national security issues can be homegrown!
Just imagine the day when, for example, family farms grow soybeans and other "bio fuel cash crops" on a large scale … invest in facilities to convert this natural resource to fuel … and reinvent and reinvigorate the North American agricultural business.
And, in doing so, dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign oil within just 10 to 15 years!
Oil companies can re-invent themselves, too—much as the automotive industry has in recent years.
Investing in the growing biodiesel and flex fuel infrastructure would be a smart move for oil companies—both for their own growth, and for our country's energy independence.
We were encouraged that The Energy Policy Act of 2005 recognized the potential of hybrid technology, modern clean diesel and biofuels, and offered tax credits to encourage their adoption.
That's a step in the right direction, because all of these technologies can contribute to the solution.
We were pleased to see the EPA has already issued regulations implementing the Renewable Fuels Standards Program, which requires three percent of gasoline dispensed this year be renewable fuels.
Given a stronger partnership with government and an economic commitment to building out the infrastructure, we're fully prepared to commit to biofuels.
In closing, we all want a bright future for this industry.
Personally, I want another four generations of LaSordas to have the opportunity to make their careers in the North American auto industry and to enjoy a good quality of life.
And so do our employees and hundreds of thousands of others.
Hope this answers any questions about DCX's stance on alternative fuels.