Q - Your new chairman, BillJr., has a high priority on environmental matters. Will that message remain consistent as new regulations come out?
A - It's a mindset, an attitude. I don't view an environmental strategy or leadership as discrete from the rest of the business. It's part of the business. It's the same as quality leadership, efficiency leadership, brand leadership. That's No.1. No.2, we have had a strategy for some years that we call "safer, cleaner, more efficient, sooner."
Q - What does that mean?
A - It's clear what we've achieved in safety. We have more than double the number of "Five Star" rated vehicles (awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) than all the others combined.
Q - And cleaner?
A - Last January we announced our "cleaner" strategy where we said our SUVs (sport/utility vehicles) and subsequently pickups would have the same level of clean air capability as our cars. Why did we do this? For the very same reason we drove safety. One, it's the right thing to do for the business. Two, it's a competitive advantage. Three, we have the technology and research capability. And four, we could do it at an affordable cost and we were able to offer it to the marketplace at no price increase. The end result is safer vehicles, cleaner vehicles, better customer satisfaction and a competitive business advantage. Those are some pretty compelling arguments. It isn't based on an esoteric vision.
Q - When will we see results of your "cleaner" initiative?
A - Our philosophy and practice has always been as soon as we can develop the right technology and as soon as it's affordable in volume, we'll introduce it. We're not talking about symbolism. We were talking about over a million vehicles ... not just 200 vehicles running around that are cleaner. We feel the right impact is made when it's applied to high-volume production. So this is not a whim, it's not a flight of fancy.