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Letters from alumni about Ford Motor Co.

June 2, 2002

Reference the letter to the editor in your May 15 issue by Amy Jaffe ’80, I do not agree that this country faces any major crisis in either its energy policy or its environmental policy. Also I think it is presumptuous, if not arrogant, for Ms. Jaffe to judge Mr. Ford and the Ford Motor Company in such an uninformed manner.

To be specific: "Improved mileage standards" by the Federal government are rarely used by any other major industrial country. These other countries use ferocious gasoline taxes to enforce their vision of reduced oil consumption for cars and trucks. Existing CAFE standards have increased our reliance on imported oil by more than 30 precent; that is not the answer. The American people won't buy econo cars; in fact, they are buying SUVs and trucks with miserable fuel consumption in record numbers because they are free to make such choices. I think SUVs are a joke but I respect others’ freedom to buy them.

There are no "engine systems" that offer zero emissions. Battery powered cars get their electricity from central power plants. They just transfer their pollution to a central source (which California doesn't have enough of, even today). Their batteries use lead, sulphuric acid, nickel metal-hydrides, etc. The potential pollution of a more than 2,000 percent increase in such batteries boggles the imagination. Hydrogen fuel cells will emit water. The only problem is the only way to get enough hydrogen requires hundreds of new electric generating plants to provide the juice to make hydrogen — at a cost much higher than today’s gasoline.

The automobile industry should be congratulated that auto pollution has been reduced by more than 97 percent since 1970. "The livability of our cities" due to auto pollution has never been so good, and will get better as older cars leave the streets.

Ford has big problems keeping Ford profitable for its shareholders. Kow-towing to his environmental friends can only exacerbate this problem.

Henry Payne III *60
Valkaria, Fla.

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April 23, 2002

Suggest you not hire writers from urban business journals or public relations firms that have no connection to Princeton. Aside from the fact that the university is looking for another large donation from a rich trustee I see no relevance in the Billy Ford story to Princeton. However, I think it may take him a bit longer than four days to write a prescription for what ails Ford Motor. Are we now doing personal and business profiles on every trustee? If so, I look forward to the one about Peter Lewis ’55 and his endorsement of pot. While you are proofreading these drafts of VIP's check up on what eating club " Henry Ford II ' 56 " joined. What alumni magazine am I reading? Wasn't he in Fence Club and Scroll and Key. I don't believe he made it to the graduation there either.

Laurence C. Day '55
St. Louis, Mo.

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April 23, 2002

If, as your recent article claimed, Ford is a staunch environmentalist, why then did his company oppose higher CAFE standards for SUVs? Instead of supporting these higher standards, the Detroit Big 3 embarked on a large disinformation campaign about the consequences of these standards on car size.

Notwithstanding the fact that this campaign was rife with lies and misleading statements, I respectfully ask: don't customers buy what's offered to them? If there are no big cars legally available anywhere in the US, won't they make do with smaller, lighter cars? Will they really stop buying cars altogether, will the Big 3 go out of business for lack of a market?

The argument is so ridiculous that nobody bothered to point it out. People are going to buy cars, that's not going to change. If the cars are smaller, people will simply deal with it and move on.

Lastly, higher CAFE standards have effects around the world, as our cars find their way to South America as second-hand cars. The effect of lower CAFE standards cannot be underestimated for the health of the planet.

I ask again. Is Ford such an environmentalist? Please, let's keep corporate propaganda out of PAW.

Gregoire Landel '98
Lexington, Mass.

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April 2, 2002

Talk is cheap, and so, apparently, is Bill Ford's environmentalism. In the March 27 PAW cover story "Job One" we are told that William Clay Ford, Jr. ' 79, board chairman and now CEO of the Ford Motor Company, is "a self-described 'idealist' and 'avid environmentalist' " who is convinced that, in addition to returning Ford Motor to profitability, "he also must lead a paradigm-changing campaign to transform Ford from a smokestack-belching 'old economy' enterprise to an 'environmentally friendly' and 'socially responsible' global leader of the 21st century."

How disappointing, then, to read in the the New York Times for March 28 ("Talking Green vs. Making Green") that Mr. Ford recently "backed an intense lobbying and advertising effort against a [U.S.] Senate proposal [by Senators John Kerry and John McCain] to raise fuel economy standards for the first time since the 1980's." The proposal was indeed defeated.

This is hardly the behavior one would expect of a company striving to become "an 'environmentally friendly' and 'socially responsible' global leader of the 21st century." Many environmentalists want to believe Mr. Ford when he says that Ford Motor is now working toward environmental friendliness and social responsibility. But he needs to put his company's money where his mouth is.

Lewis G. Creary *69
San Jose, Calif.

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April 2, 2002

I was struck in your recent article "Fixing Ford" for a huge omission in describing the challenges confronting Billy Ford '79.

We face in this country a major crisis — both in strategic energy policy and in environmental policy. Post-September 11, the stakes of not adjusting our national energy policy to lower our exposure to unexpected events in the Middle East look painfully high.

Yet, your article on William Clay Ford, Jr. '79 completely ignores the fact that the U.S. automobile industry, including Ford Motor Company, lobbied persistently and virulently against the public and national interest in the area of conservation, often referring to misleading (and in some cases, outright false) information about safety and cost.

Mr. Ford is faced with a much bigger challenge than simply to come up with television commercials to show that he intends to make a safe SUV.

He is standing at a crossroads where he can bring our children to a better future by pushing forward improved mileage standards that reduce the extent of our reliance on Middle East oil; and by moving more rapidly on engine systems that offer lower or zero emissions, saving the liveability of our cities and eliminating pollution-related illness. I was shocked to see that your article mentioned nothing of this sort.

The question for Mr. Ford as an "environmentalist" is this: We know he can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk? His strategies on Capital Hill seem to speak otherwise.

Amy Myers Jaffe '80
Hoston, Tex.

Last spring, Amy Myers Jaffe served as project director for a major U.S. task force on Strategic Energy Policy.

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March 28, 2002

I wish Bill Ford 179 ("Job One," March 27, 2002) well in his duties as Ford's new CEO. While he performs them, he might ponder the results of his grandfather's dabbling in world politics during the twenties and thirties. Henry Ford, as is now widely known, was a rabid anti-Semite and generous financial backer of Adolf Hitler. Hitler called Ford "my favorite American," hung a picture of Ford on his wall, and received a birthday present every year from Ford. Ford published a virulently anti-Semitic newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which promulgated the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a forgery which claimed that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

Whether World War II and the Holocaust would have occurred without Ford's efforts we shall never know, but Henry Ford clearly had a leading role in causing them. Rather than pursue the goal of selling more SUV's Bill Ford 179 might devote himself to undoing the damage his grandfather helped cause. My own family--and there are many others--lost grandparents and aunts and large amounts of wealth to Hitler, and the damage, in my opinion, has not been ameliorated.

,Ronald A. Wiener ’76
Sarasota, Fla.

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March 25, 2002

In your cover story on Bill Ford ’79 (March 27, 2002), writer Tom Nugent quotes an analyst who said: "They need to go back to what they do so well — the SUVs and the pickup trucks."

My question is this: Aren’t SUVs the gas-gulping monsters that keep American dependent on foreign oil?

Edward Clay ’47
Wyndmoor, Pa.

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