Ford Markets Low Emissions over Toughness

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(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) With some fanfare, Ford CEO Alan Mulally traveled to New York City’s Rockefeller Center to unveil a new a more fuel efficient version of its popular Explorer SUV in 2011. The Explorer was the top selling vehicle in the US for much of the 1990’s. But fuel efficiency, it turns out, can be a relative term, and the new, fuel-efficient Ford is well below the Obama Administration's standards for light trucks to achieve 2016.

The company says it is trying to shake off a perception among consumers that the SUV is a gas guzzler; Its own studies said poor gas mileage had been the number one reason buyers had been rejecting the Explorer, which has seen an 88 percent drop in sales over the last decade. So you wouldn't miss that message, the wrap covering the car, unveiled on live TV, said,"lowest CO2 emmissions."

Ford hasn’t released exact numbers, but says the most efficient version of its seven-passenger SUV will get about 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, the same rating as a Toyota Camry sedan now has.

Under regulations adopted by the Obama administration in 2009, cars and light trucks will have to have a combined city and highway fuel economy average of much more than than that -- 35.5 mpg -- by 2016.

The 30% improvement of the four-cylinder 2011 Explorers brings the new SUV to an approximate combined average of 22.5 mpg.

(Michael Drury contributed to this report.)