Don't expect to see Christie Whitman, head of the EPA, tooling around in an SUV or to see one in her motorcade. The Associated Press obtained a list of do's and don'ts for agents on Whitman's security detail. Among the rules: "When renting a car, get a Lincoln Town Car or equivalent. Don't get a Cadillac or a SUV. It is preferable not to use a SUV for the trail car, but if no other car is available, it is acceptable."
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE ... There will be no so-called crossover sport vans sold by Ford Motor Co. "That's all smoke," Ford North America President Jim Padilla says of General Motors' new minivan naming scheme. Minivans will continue to be people movers, he contends, and Ford will distinguish its upcoming Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans with upgraded and more flexible interiors. "The answer's on the inside," Padilla argues, because on the outside, all minivan competitors "look the same."
A DOLLAR FOR YOUR THOUGHTS -- Having a bad memory could cost you a few bucks at Ford Division. In an effort to fire up the Freestar name for its new minivan, employees who mistakenly call the 2004 minivan by its current name, Windstar, are being asked to cough up $1 per slip. Ford even installed a barrel with these words written on the side, "Freestar, Buck in a Barrel," at its division offices in Dearborn, Mich. The concept is similar to a swear jar - if you utter a profanity, you have to donate whatever change you're carrying - to discourage using the wrong name. Apparently the idea is working - or perhaps people who err aren't coughing up the dough. As of late April, only about $8 had been collected. There's no word on how Ford will spend the cash; maybe to boost the company's sagging bottom line?
EMISSION PROBLEMS -- New research suggests that prolonged exposure to exhaust fumes from vehicles can damage sperm quality in young and middle-aged men. Italian researchers at the University of Naples came to that conclusion after studying 85 highway toll booth attendants. HealthScout News, which covers consumer health news, notes that the quality of the attendants' sperm was below normal and that the sperm weren't living as long, reducing the likelihood of fertilizing an egg.
KELLEY SAYS THEY'RE COOL -- Ask 100 people what makes a car cool and you'll probably get 100 different answers. But consumer research provider Kelley Blue Book decided to go out on a limb and list the 10 coolest cars for sale for under $18,000. In no particular order, they are: the Ford Focus ZX3, Scion xB, Suzuki Aerio, Toyota Corolla, Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, Honda Civic, Hyundai Tiburon, Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Celica GT. Kelley says it made the selections based on design, style, performance, research and discussions with dealers, vehicle owners and prospective buyers.