DETROIT — The Sierra Club, a longtime foe of Ford Motor Co., applauded the automaker Monday for releasing its second hybrid vehicle and said it will market the sport utility vehicle to its members.
Lincoln Mercury division spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said Ford already had received 27 orders for the Mercury Mariner Hybrid by early Monday afternoon. The SUV will be sold almost exclusively online. Customers can order the vehicles through Mercury’s Web site and pick them up from a local dealer.
The San Francisco-based Sierra Club said it will tell its members about the Mariner Hybrid and offer test drives at its annual summit in September. It’s a change of pace for the environmental group, which ran ads two years ago criticizing Ford’s environmental record. At the time, the Sierra Club said Ford’s 95-year-old Model T was more fuel efficient than the Ford Explorer SUV.
“For years, the Sierra Club has pressured Ford to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program in Washington. “They are now beginning to do that, and we want to help them succeed.”
The Mariner Hybrid’s fuel economy is nearly 50 percent higher than a conventional Mariner, Ford said. The Mariner Hybrid gets an estimated 33 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Not all environmental groups are satisfied, however. The San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network said it will run a newspaper ad in a few weeks targeting Ford for having the least fuel-efficient fleet of all the major automakers.
“While it’s encouraging that Ford is putting a second hybrid on the market, the production levels are so low that it will have no measurable impact on Ford’s bottom-of-the-barrel fleet-wide fuel efficiency or off-the-charts greenhouse gas emissions,” Rainforest Action Network executive director Michael Brune said.
Ford plans to produce 2,000 Mariner Hybrids at its Kansas City, Mo., plant for the 2006 model year. The company believes volume will eventually grow to 4,000 vehicles annually. Ford sold more than 3 million vehicles in the United States last year.
Ford’s director of hybrid programs, Mary Ann Wright, said Ford is committed to reducing emissions in all its vehicles. The Mariner is the second of five hybrids the company plans to introduce in the next few years, she added.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker introduced the Ford Escape Hybrid last fall and sold 2,566 vehicles in 2004, or about 3 percent of the total hybrid market, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield-based automotive data firm. Japanese brands accounted for more than 96 percent of the hybrid vehicles registered.
The Escape Hybrid was the first hybrid SUV on the market and the first hybrid produced by a U.S. automaker. Since then, Toyota Motor Corp. has released hybrid versions of two SUVs.