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Detroit News at Oscars: Hollywood Needs "Stretch Limo" Hybrids"
Feb 24, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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Detroit's home audience will read, entertainingly, the description of two PHEVs:

  • a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid that the Japanese automaker doesn't sell
  • a Ford Edge crossover that has both plug-in electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell... the one-of-a-kind vehicle...is not slated for production.

Oscars' hot new look: Green Environmentally friendly vehicles take center stage at awards show Ann Job / Special to The Detroit News Saturday, February 24, 2007 http://www.detnews.com/­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article? AID=/­20070224/­ENT02/­702240371/­1148/­AUTO01

HOLLYWOOD, Calif . -- Don't adjust your television if you think the Academy Awards festivities in Tinseltown this week are looking greener than usual.

Environmentally friendly vehicles and their influence on global warming and America's oil dependency are hot topics this year on the red carpet.

Indeed, in a first for Ford Motor Co., one star will get the bragging rights to the most exclusive and exotic ride to Sunday's Oscars ceremony -- a Ford Edge crossover that has both plug-in electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

On Friday, Ford was trucking the one-of-a-kind vehicle from Dearborn to California just for the Oscars and still deciding which celebrity would get it, Ford spokesman Jim Cain said. The vehicle, first shown at the Washington auto show last month, is not slated for production.

The Edge will join approximately 30 Toyota Motor Corp. hybrid models, a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid that the Japanese automaker doesn't sell and a $92,000 Tesla electric roadster in the fleet of vehicles that will ferry Hollywood celebrities to the awards ceremony.

Earlier in the week, General Motors Corp. made sure to highlight at least eight environmentally friendly vehicles at its pre-Oscars bash here -- the most green vehicles GM has ever shown at the annual event. GM showed hybrid and fuel cell models, along with vehicles that can run on E85, a mix of gasoline and ethanol.

"I'll go the rest of my life, absolutely, driving a hybrid," former fashion model Cheryl Tiegs said as she talked with news media on the red carpet at GM's event.

And what is Tiegs' hybrid? A Saturn Vue Green Line. "It's my one and only car," she said, adding that she gets kudos from others as she drives the Vue gasoline-electric hybrid around Southern California.

Cadillac debuts a hybrid

Covering the celebrity goings-on, the entertainment industry's trade journal Variety wrote this week that a hybrid version of a 1952 Buick Riviera convertible "could be the ride of the millennium." This kind of car isn't on the drawing boards, of course.

But GM officials are sure to note that Variety linked GM with the word "hybrid" after attending GM's sixth annual pre-Oscars cars-and-fashion event, which drew nearly 1,000 guests.

GM officials treated the Hollywood crowd to the first public and media debut of a Cadillac Escalade gasoline-electric hybrid.

Cadillac General Manager Jim Taylor said the Escalade will be GM's last full-size sport utility vehicle to roll out with a dual-mode hybrid system later this decade.

An E85-capable Escalade also is in the works, in part because many high-brow Cadillac customers want to know the brand is environmentally aware, he said.

In fact, Taylor said the first or second question he gets from celebrities about Cadillac is whether the brand has a hybrid.

He wasn't kidding. Earlier on the red carpet, Tyrese Gibson, who will be in this summer's "Transformers" movie, declared "there's something sexy" about gas-electric hybrids.

And Sarah Wayne Callies of the television show "Prison Break" praised GM for using its Oscar week activity to show off environmentally friendly vehicles.

"What GM is doing today is spectacular," she said before her appearance on the GM cars-and-fashion catwalk. "I'm really happy to be supporting what they're doing."

Mike Jackson, GM North America vice president for marketing and advertising, has championed the annual GM event, called "Ten," since the beginning. He said changing GM's image in California, where at least one out of every 10 U.S. vehicle sales are made, is a priority in a state where consumers are unusually tuned in to trends set by celebrities.

Stars gush over car displays

George Peterson of the automotive research firm AutoPacific Inc. in Southern California said GM's event is a "good investment" especially because so many Californians are becoming more aware and vocal about the environment.

Indeed, this year was the first time many stars seemed to want to talk about environmental vehicles rather than their designer clothes and movie roles.

Callies said she came "for the cars" and admitted a fondness for a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that she drove one summer. She said "it's heartbreaking" to hear of the job losses in Detroit, and she hopes more environmentally friendly vehicles will help boost Detroit automakers' fortunes.

GM is the only automaker that hosts an annual pre-Oscars party in Hollywood and routinely gets big name stars to attend.

Toyoto keeps low profile

But GM isn't the only automaker trying to be seen in Hollywood.

Toyota, which sells more hybrids than any automaker, will figure prominently at the red carpet Sunday, though a company spokeswoman said Toyota's direct involvement is "low key." Environmental organizations such as Global Green USA and the Environmental Media Association in the Los Angeles area accumulated some Toyota hybrid loaner vehicles for stars.

A Global Green USA spokesperson said Oscar nominee Penelope Cruz, as well as many of the producers and the director of global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," will arrive at the Oscars in alternative vehicles that the group has arranged.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Oscar attendees will arrive in Hollywood's staple vehicle.

"Oh, God, there are a lot more stretched limos than green vehicles there," said Jeff Greene, president of the National Limousine Association.

But he said there could be a market if a manufacturer figures out how to produce a stretched version of a hybrid vehicle.

Ann Job is a California-based automotive freelance writer and can be reached at annjo84@....

CAPTIONS:
One star will arrive at Sunday's Academy Awards in an exclusive Ford Edge crossover. At GM Ten, the automaker's pre-Oscar bash featuring stars, fashion and cars, actor Chris Kattan models with a 2008 Cadillac CTS. Actor Donald Faison, dressed in Dolce & Gabbana, walks the GM Ten runway Tuesday with a 2007 Buick Enclave in Los Angeles. See full image Oscar-nominee Jennifer Hudson shows off a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. GM featured the most green vehicles it ever has at its annual fashion event Tuesday in Los Angeles.

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