The Fordasaurus

Before Ford publicly unveiled the biggest sport-utility vehicle ever, the Sierra Club ran a contest for the best name and marketing slogan for it. Among the entries were “Fordasaurus, powerful enough to pass anything on the highway except a gas station’’ and “Ford Saddam, the truck that will put America between Iraq and a hard place.’’ But the winner was “Ford Valdez: Have you driven a tanker lately?”

Ford, which decided to name the nine-passenger vehicle the Excursion, was not amused. Sales of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) exploded in the 1990s, going up nearly six fold, and the company saw itself as simply responding to consumer demand for ever larger models. Although most SUVs never leave the pavement, their drivers like knowing their vehicles can go anywhere and do anything. 

They also like their SUVs to be big. Before the Hummer passed it, the Excursion was the largest passenger vehicle on the road, putting Ford well ahead of its rivals in the competition to build the biggest and baddest SUV. The Excursion weighs 8,500 pounds, equivalent to two midsize sedans or three Honda Civics. It is more than 6 1⁄2 feet wide, nearly 7 feet high, and almost 19 feet long—too big to fit comfortably into some garages or into a single parking space.

Although the Excursion is expensive ($40,000 to $50,000 when loaded with options), it is, like other SUVs, profitable to build. Because Ford based the Excursion on the chassis of its Super Duty truck, the company was able to develop the vehicle for a relatively modest investment of about $500 million. With sales of 50,000 to 60,000 per year, Ford earns about $20,000 per vehicle.

Classified as a medium-duty truck, the Excursion is allowed to emit more smog-causing gases than passenger cars. However, Ford says that the Excursion, with its 44-gallon gas tank, gets 10 to 15 miles per gallon and that its emission of pollutants is 43 percent below the maximum for its class. By weight, about 85 percent of the vehicle is recyclable, and 20 percent of it comes from recycled metals and plastics. The company thus believes that the Excursion is in keeping with the philosophy of William Clay Ford, Jr. When he became chairman in September 1998, he vowed to make Ford “the world’s most environmentally friendly auto maker.’’ He added, however, that “what we do to help the environment must succeed as a business proposition. A zero-emission vehicle that sits unsold on a dealer’s lot is not reducing pollution.’’

The company, however, has failed to win environmentalists to its side. They believe that with the Excursion, the Ford Company is a long way from producing an environmentally friendly product. Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club points out that in the course of an average lifetime of 120,000 miles, each Excursion will emit 130 tons of carbon dioxide, the principal cause of global warming. 

“It’s just bad for the environment any way you look at it,’’ he says. John DeCicco of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy agrees. He worries further that the Excursion is clearing the way for bigger and bigger vehicles. “This is the antithesis of green leadership.’’

Stung by criticism of the Excursion, Bill Ford vowed to make the company a more responsible environmental citizen. Worried that if automobile producers didn’t clean up their act, they would become as vilified as cigarette companies, in August 2000 Ford promised it would improve the fuel economy of its SUVs by 25 percent over the next five years, smugly inviting other automakers to follow its green leadership. 

To this GM responded that it was the real green leader and “will still be in five years, or 10 years, or for that matter 20 years. End of story.’’ When they aren’t bragging about their greenness, however, both companies continue to lobby Congress, and battle in the courts, against new mandates on emissions and fuel efficiency.


Ford Motor Company failed to keep its promise to improve fuel economy by 25 percent by 2005, but it has phased out the Excursion. After a five-year stint as president and CEO of Ford, Bill Ford remains chairman of its board of directors and is still hoping to push the company toward a greener future. Recently, the company introduced the Escape, an SUV that is a gas-electric hybrid, and Ford’s research-and-development people are working hard on developing a hydrogen engine. Still, Ford is filling the void left by the Excursion with an extra-long version of its Expedition.

Not only do gas guzzlers continue to roll out of Detroit’s assembly plants, but some of the auto makers’ supposedly environmentally conscious efforts—consider the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid—seem to be a sham. Perhaps that is not so surprising when one finds Bob Lutz, vice president of GM, stating in 2008 that hybrids like the Toyota Prius “make no economic sense” and that global warming “is a total crock of [expletive].” 

However, with higher gas prices and the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States no better than it was twenty years ago, the backlash against SUVs is growing. Environmentalists have now been joined by conservatives, who in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, are worried about supporting Middle Eastern oil producers who fund terrorism, and by evangelical groups, whose bumper stickers ask, “What would Jesus drive?”

Discussion Questions

  1. Are environmentalists right to be concerned about the environmental impact of SUVs? How do you explain the demand for ever larger passenger vehicles? Will higher gas prices change that?
  2. In developing and producing the Excursion, was the Ford Motor Company sacrificing the environment for profits, or was it acting in a socially responsible way by making the Excursion relatively energy efficient for its vehicle class? If you had been on the board of directors, would you have voted for the project? Why or why not? Do Ford’s stockholders have a right to insist that it produce the most profitable vehicles it legally can, regardless of their environmental impact?
  3. Assess William Clay Ford’s promise to make his company the “world’s most environmentally friendly automaker.’’ How should we intend this claim in Utilitarian and Kantian terms?
  4. Is Ford Motor Company simply responding to consumer demand for large vehicles, or is it helping to shape and encourage that demand?
  5. What would an existentialist drive?

Based on the utilitarianism theory utilitarianism is the doctrine that an action is right in so far as it promotes happiness. In this case the environment in the market will be the majority and on the other hand, the owners of SUV and SUV’, in my opinion we all live in the same earth we it is not very easy to say this personal problem, this kind of problem is about all the human live in the earth, in this hard the environmentalist is right, in the other hand for egoism higher gas prices can’t change that at all, because people will use car every single day they don’t care what other people think.

(2) In my opinion, based on the egoism, people need car however they only need car for instead of walking tool, for them they don’t care the SUV is making the Excursion relatively energy efficient for its vehicle class or just normal SUV, however, for utilitarianism, the Excursion relatively energy efficient for its vehicle class is bad, because if we do that we will lose lot of money when the company change to Excursion relatively energy efficient for its vehicle class. But we think about the environmentalist way I will voted this project because we all live in the earth and if environment is bad it is not only affect us, think about our children that is very seriously problem for them, so if I am stockholder will voted this project for environment we live.

(3) In my opinion, Ford company did all things in a legal way, however, it is not enough for people for this environment, so in the public I think Ford company did every good job, but “world’s most environmentally friendly automaker.” I think this is only for the competitive between those car company, because is easy to see that Ford they still produce normal SUV which is bad for environment but in my opinion for Ford they should think more about how to produce the Excursion relatively energy car in cost reduction, that is very good for company running, so for the Utilitarian it is hard to say how Ford did good thing or bad thing, in the one hand Ford did pollute the environments, but in the other hand, everything is Ford did is legal, and make a lot of benefit. For Kantian, Kant’s theory is that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. Based on his theory I think they did a very good thing for this company’s running.

(4) In my opinion, I think Ford Motor Company produce to consumer demand for larger vehicles it is only for market need lager vehicles, even we talk a lot of environment issues in this case, company still need to make money, they acknowledge the carbon dioxide in the air, and introduce how important for human that if environment is bad. Also it is a good way for Ford company to prove that why they are world’s most environmentally friendly automaker, and they can let people know and buy Escape SUV, and show it is better choose for consumer and environment also they can encourage demand base on environment reason.

(5) Base on the existentialism, it is individual existence, freedom and choice, it is view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions, in my opinion I think existentialism is make benefit for ourselves, simplify think about why we should make our environment better, because we need to live in the earth, and everyone all have environmental issues. So in my opinion, if we think about where we live, which is the earth, and our children, we should stop polluting the environment.