Ford Motor Company, the industry's Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) truck leader, is keeping far ahead of the industry curve - and government regulations - as it continues to put cleaner trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on the road. Ford passed the two million LEV truck mark in February, less than one and a half years after beginning its industry-leading environmental initiative. The large majority of SUVs and pickups are not mandated to be low emission prior to the 2004 model year. However, as of the 1999 model year, all Ford SUVs are LEV and Ford Windstar minivans meet Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standards. All Ford F-Series pickup trucks, starting with the 2000 model year, also are LEV.

"We have publicly committed ourselves to this higher standard of corporate responsibility because we believe it is the right thing to do," said Bobbie Gaunt, Ford of Canada president and chief executive officer. "Once we have the technology and can take an action in volume to ensure a significant, positive environmental impact, we will not wait for regulatory timetables. We will simply act."

Ford announced in 1998 that all SUVs and Windstar minivans sold in the U.S. and Canada, starting with the 1999 model year, would meet the U.S. federal government's stringent criteria for qualifying as LEV. This industry first was followed by the major announcement in 1999 that all F-Series pickup trucks would be LEV, starting in the 2000 model year.

Ford's clean truck fleet includes Lincoln Navigator; Ford Expedition, Explorer, Windstar, Excursion, and F-Series pickup trucks. The recently unveiled Escape small utility vehicle will also be LEV. These LEV pickups, minivans and SUVs will emit anywhere from 43 percent to more than 50 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than similar vehicles that do not meet LEV.

The combined effect from Ford's early-adoption actions so far is equivalent to eliminating the harmful smog-forming emissions from 350,000 full-size pickups on the North American roads today. On an ongoing basis, Ford's action will result in 4,250 tons less of smog- forming pollutants being released annually into the atmosphere. It would take more than 600,000 hybrid electric vehicles placed in service to equal the air quality benefit that Ford's action will have in calendar year 2000.

"The environmental benefit to date from our LEV actions is greater than anything else that has been done in the industry," Gaunt said. "There has been a cost to the company for doing this, but we have found other efficiencies so that no cost from our environmental actions is passed on to the customer."

Emissions actions are particularly challenging with trucks and larger vehicles because of the range of high-demand uses. However, Ford's industry-leading emissions control technology and catalyst research have allowed Ford to make dramatic reductions in vehicle emissions, and the company has consistently led the industry in emissions-related environmental actions.

Ford has replaced most of its engine lines the past few years with newer models that are significantly better in controlling engine-out emission levels. The company also has one of the best catalyst research programs in the industry, and Ford scientists have developed a number of industry-leading systems to greatly reduce what still does emit from the vehicle.