Ford, Sierra Club call truce for hybrid SUV

WASHINGTON: The Sierra Club has decided to take off the gloves and shake hands with longtime nemesis Ford - at least for the moment.

WASHINGTON: The Sierra Club has decided to take off the gloves and shake hands with longtime nemesis Ford - at least for the moment.

The club is working with Ford to promote its new Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV.

"We're trying to figure out how to move a company," said Dan Becker, director of the club's global warming program.

The club in the past has called on Ford to increase fleet mileage to 40 mpg and criticized its lack of progress. But it sees the Mariner as a step in the right direction and felt it should publicly acknowledge that.

The group told more than 300,000 members last Monday through its e-newsletter that the Mariner Hybrid is "an SUV even an environmentalist could love."

It plans to showcase the Mariner, along with other hybrids, at a San Francisco conference in September for 3,000 club leaders. The club is also working with Ford to produce web-based educational information about the most efficient ways to drive hybrid vehicles.

The pro-Ford move has drawn barbs from some club members.

"They're turning their activism on us," said Becker regarding comments he received from members.

But such criticism won't sway the club's position, he insisted.

He also stressed that the Mariner effort won't prevent the Sierra Club from criticizing Ford in the future. But, "in this case, we wanted to applaud their efforts to do one of the things we've been calling on them to do," Becker said.

The effort nearly didn't happen. The club had offered to promote Ford's hybrid Escape SUV, which went on sale this year, but was rebuffed by Ford executives.

That decision reportedly irked Ford CEO William Clay Ford Jr., who has tried to reach out to environmentalists. He instructed Ford not to turn down future offers from the club.

Paul Wood, Lincoln Mercury public affairs manager, said: "We have found common ground. Where it makes sense to work together, we're going to do that."

Ford is marketing the Mariner solely online, appealing to tech-savvy, environmentally conscious consumers.

It plans to sell 2,000 of the 2006 model Mariners and 4,000 the following year. The vehicle goes into production in October.

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