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Gore Says Car Makers Vow to Push for Fuel Economy

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

As gasoline-swilling pickups and sport-utility vehicles continue to fill Americans’ garages and soaring gas prices empty their wallets, Vice President Al Gore said Thursday that the major domestic auto makers will extend development of fuel-miserly vehicles into the light-truck segment.

Using the occasion to showcase his ability to work with industry, Democratic presidential candidate Gore also said that General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler have also agreed to speed up the timetable for mass-producing cars with hybrid gasoline-electric engines that can achieve “significant improvements” in fuel economy.

The first such vehicles, likely to be family sedans, will be on the market within four years, the auto makers pledged. The federal-private fuel-economy initiative, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, had not called for mass production to begin until 2008.

The three auto makers earlier this year unveiled concept cars developed under the PNGV banner that used diesel-electric hybrid power plants to achieve up to 70 miles per gallon. Switching to a cleaner gasoline-electric system would probably reduce fuel economy somewhat.

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Some consumer groups remain skeptical about the industry’s devotion to fuel economy. Auto makers lobby against higher fuel-economy standards while using PNGV to give lip service to better gas mileage, said Katherine Silverthorne of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Toyota Motor Corp. expects to have its five-passenger gas-electric hybrid, the 60-mile-per-gallon Prius, on sale in the U.S. by July, and Honda Motor Co. has already begun selling a 70-mile-per-gallon hybrid, the two-seat Insight.


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