What do you think the odds are that Bill Ford's corporate vision for Ford Motor Co. and gasoline-electric hybrids will get the rabid environmentalists off his back?
Put my vote in the "fat chance" column.
The reasonable environmentalists -- and other sensible citizens -- will applaud Ford's plan to make half of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models his company sells in North America available as hybrids by the end of the decade. They know that's a serious commitment that puts Ford well in front of General Motors and Chrysler on the hybrid issue.
For that matter, it puts Ford in front of every other automaker in the hybrid race, save Toyota, which plans to ride its hybrid pony into the sunset.
But just wait -- the mad, green haranguers will find fault. It's not enough, they'll say. Nor is it soon enough. Then they'll carp the same old crap about getting rid of big trucks, which, by the way, generate the capital needed to invest in fuel-saving technology.
The larger question is how all of this will play with consumers.
Right now, hybrids are the buzz.
One environmentalist/social concerns group says data from a recent opinion poll show eight in 10 people want SUV owners to drive something else to reduce the nation's dependence on oil. And 80 percent also want the Big 3 to follow Toyota's lead in hybrids, the group says.
The numbers seem suspiciously high, but maybe the survey just captured a snapshot of hysterical reaction. Still, there can be no doubt the run-up of gasoline prices after Hurricane Katrina has prompted consumers to think about fuel efficiency.
Realistically, gasoline-electric hybrids aren't for everyone. Those in the know understand they're good in certain circumstances, especially stop-and-go urban driving, while other technologies, such as diesels, do better under other conditions.
But by 2010, who knows? The price of gasoline isn't likely to plummet, and it isn't logical to think the supply of gasoline will be less constricted. And don't forget the need to develop diesels, natural gas and fuel cells.
For the time being, offering half of your models as hybrids by 2010 seems like a shrewd hedge.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at