Is Ford Saving the World?

Ford (NYSE:F) is introducing more energy-efficient tools and production methods as it tries to reduce consumption at its factories by 25 percent from current numbers by 2016. From 2006 until now, the automaker has managed to cut down energy consumption by 22 percent, a feat it is hoping to improve on. In its annual sustainability report published on Friday, Ford said it had used 2,778 kilowatt hours to produce each vehicle last year, compared with 3,576 kwh in 2006. Factory emissions of carbon dioxide fell 48 percent from 2000 to 2010, it added.

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According to John Viera, the company’s global director of sustainability, rising sales in recent months have also helped as factory capacity is used more efficiently. “Our plants are running at a higher capacity,” Viera told Bloomberg.

According to the company’s manager of sustainability Thomas Niemann, energy use will be cut at factories over the next four years by installing more-efficient tools, lighting, paint processes, and converting inefficient steam-powered systems to direct-fired gas systems.

Of course, production efficiency has a much smaller positive impact on the environment than the negative effects of cars. Ford said it was also trying to make changes in its vehicular performance by introducing direct fuel-injected engines that boost mileage. According to environment experts, though, it still lags behind others like Honda Motor (NYSE:HMC), for instance, in that regard.

Ford added in its report that the company was working on introducing smaller cars such as the Fiesta subcompact, and selling electric version of cars like the Focus. It is also scheduled to launch the hybrid and plug-in versions of the C-Max wagon later this year, and is hoping to introduce a plug-in version of its Fusion family car next year. According to Friday’s report, the fuel-efficiency of its U.S. vehicles has improved almost 17 percent since 2006.

Viera said part of the reason for taking sustainability seriously is Ford’s reputation in front of consumers. “The corporate reputation is we didn’t take the bailout money and we’re a responsible company from an environmental standpoint,” he said. Ford managed to avoid government-financed bankruptcy during the worse days of the recent economic downturn unlike rivals General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler. “Collectively, those positive reputation pieces do allow us to sell more cars or get more consideration,” he said.

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