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Jan 082008

By John DeFore

Ford Motor Company this week announced the launch of a driver-education web site where we can “learn the importance of consuming less fuel to help protect the environment.” Skeptics will consider Ford an unlikely source of this campaign, given 2008_ford_expedition.jpgthat the company’s Expedition and the Navigator helped turn over-sized S.U.V.’s into a planet-threatening fashion trend. (They didn’t do this singlehandedly, of course.)

The “eco-driving” component of the site isn’t entirely intuitive. Visitors who find the sole link to it from the home page (it’s under “Students”) are rewarded with a pop-up window that offers pages of introductory material before getting to the actual information. Eventually, the patient user will discover useful advice about driving behavior — excessive idling and acceleration, for instance — that they might not realize is harmful. (All this information can be had on other green-driving sites, such as this page of tips from the EPA.)

The mini-course is geared toward drivers hoping to make the most efficient use of whatever gas-guzzler they already own, which begs the question of the world’s need for vast improvements in the efficiency of cars on the market right now. When Ford gets around to the topic of the gas mileage of its own lineup (down at the bottom of this auxiliary page, all three of the models for which it cites actual numbers perform well below the highway gas mileage (mpg) of Consumer Reports’s top dozen fuel sippers. (The company lobs a general boast that its Escape Hybrid is “the most fuel-efficient SUV available,” which apparently would come as a surprise to the testers behind this ranking from November, though another list backs it up.)

Moreover, there isn’t a single Ford on Consumer Reports’ lineup of the most efficient cars (both hybrid and traditional) in each size category. Time will tell how much fruit is borne by Ford’s newfound green streak — but it’s going to take more than some Flash animation and Ford-branded lesson plans to undo the damage the automobile has done to the atmosphere.