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NEWSWEEK: Bill Ford Jr. Ready to Revive His Clean Revolution

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Bill Ford Drives Escape Hybrid

Says He Won't Veer Off The Garden Path Again; 'If People Judge This Is The Wrong Path to Be On, Then I'm Not The Guy to Do The Job... I'm Not Changing'

NEW YORK, Dec. 5 -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford Jr. tells Newsweek that he's ready to restart his clean revolution now that his company is no longer losing money. "My passion for the environment hasn't waned one bit over the years," he tells Detroit Bureau Chief Keith Naughton in the current issue. "It's just that events overtook me when I became CEO, and the fires were raging everywhere."

Now Ford won't publicly commit to any hard targets, even refusing to confirm leaks from his own execs that Ford is aiming to cut in half the global-warming gases coming from its cars by 2030, which will require an 80 percent boost in gas mileage. "These are the kind of issues I'm driving personally," he says. "But I won't speak externally to numbers because a cynic would say, 'Well, it's easy to make a promise that far in the future'." He's right, Naughton reports, but even his allies want something tangible on how he's cleaning up his cars in the next five years-not in a quarter-century. "We're rooting for him," says environmental shareholder activist Mindy Lubber. "But he's got to act sooner."

Ford's long-awaited gas-electric-hybrid Escape SUV is finally on the road and he's cranked up his new ecofriendly factory, with the world's largest "living roof" blanketed in flowering ground cover. He's even convened a panel of young execs to tackle the thorny issue of how Ford can clean up its cars to combat global warming. The boyish optimism he once displayed about saving the planet has now been replaced by a world-weary determination to re-establish Ford's green credibility-and his own, Naughton reports in the December 13 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, December 6).

Ford's next hybrid, a Mercury version of the Escape, won't arrive until 2006, while Toyota will launch as many as four new hybrids next year. Bill Ford clearly doesn't like playing catch-up. "I can't control what people think of Toyota," he says. "All I can control is what they think of us. And that's what I'm working really hard to get right." He knows it will take more than one hybrid and one clean factory. And he insists he won't veer off the garden path again. "Ultimately, if people judge this is the wrong road to be on, then I'm not the guy to do the job," he says. "Because I'm not changing."