Ford Executives Discuss Gas Prices And Fuel Alternatives

Top executives from Ford Motor Company helped open a new car dealership in Gulfport Thursday morning. WLOX News used the occasion to talk with them about rising gas prices and new hybrid technology.

The Butch Oustalet Lincoln-Mercury dealership is the first "gallery showroom" in Mississippi. Appearances by the presidents of both Ford and Lincoln-Mercury allowed the opportunity to talk with them about fuel efficiency and rising gas prices.

Al Giombetti is the new president of the Lincoln-Mercury division.

"If you look at gas over time and the inflation rate, gas is actually not too bad. And if you really think about it for a second, how much to you pay for a gallon of water versus a gallon of gas today?" he asked.

The president of Ford says consumers will help drive the decision about which vehicles will succeed in this world of rising gas prices.

"People continue to buy the type of vehicle they want. However, if the price were to keep rising, I think it would start to change the type of vehicle people buy," said Darryl Hazel.

The popularity of the hybrid version of Ford's "Escape" SUV is evidence that customers are interested in fuel efficiency and alternative technology. That success will mean more hybrids.

"In fact, Mercury has a hybrid that will be out in September. And we have a couple of cars that will be out a little after that that will also be hybrids," said Hazel.

Ford executives say keep in mind that building new hybrid or alternative vehicles is only half the challenge. Another big question right now is where will those vehicles be fueled or recharged?

"Because you still need an infrastructure to be able to deliver whatever that energy is to the consumer," Giombitti said.

Ford is also exploring hydrogen cell technology. The Detroit executives say consumer demand will increase at the alternatives evolve.

"I believe it will become more affordable. And as it becomes more affordable there will be a consumer pull demand process," Hazel predicted.

Ford executives say consumers will help decide which cars and companies succeed, in a world of uncertain oil futures and a growing demand for energy efficiency.