In 1999, Ford sales of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) topped 700,000 — this at a time of increasing public concern about the effect of SUV emissions on global warming. In an annual survey, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy scored two Ford SUV models below competing Japanese models for environmental impact. But SUVs are a popular, high-margin product for Ford, and despite the potential for negative public reaction, by 2001, the company was offering a total of six SUV models, up from two in 1990.
In spite of these trends, since 1998 Ford has stated its aim of becoming the “world’s most environmentally friendly automaker.” In December 1999, the company withdrew from the Global Climate Coalition, an industrial group that disputes “greenhouse effect” science. In a Corporate Citizen Report, published on its Web site, Ford has also stated its aim to use more recyclable materials and to develop a 40 mpg SUV hybrid by 2003. For the long-run, Ford has dedicated 2,500 scientists and engineers to more than 70 environmental studies.