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Green czar goes to LA

By   /   Friday, November 7th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Green czar goes to LA

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Although alternative fuel and hybrid cars have been a part the Los Angeles Auto Show for years, a San Luis Obispo entrepreneur is helping to bring more green cars to the exhibition, which begins later this month.

This comes in the wake of one of the worst months of auto sales in a quarter-century, according to some analysts. Despite that, auto show organizers plan to roll out two dozen world premiers Nov. 21 to 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“It’s the greenest show so far,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of the San Luis Obispo-based Green Car Journal. “The show is reflection of the market and what people want.”

Auto show Communications Director Brendan Flynn agreed, but added: “Ron helps us exhibit the latest products. He helps pull in the energy for the show.”

The Los Angeles Auto Show is arguably the largest in North America after 100 years of competing with Detroit.
Cogan selected more than two dozen alternative-fuel vehicles for journalists to test drive just prior to the show’s opening, including the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell sedan, General Motor’s Equinox Fuel Cell and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car. He also will present his magazine’s Green Car of the Year Award for the fourth time.

“Ron’s been a great resource for steering us in the right direction,” Flynn said. “His Green Car of the Year Award is growing in stature.”

Even though the price of gasoline has fallen from well over $4 a gallon to less than $3, Cogan said he believes the car-buying public has just about had it with paying so much to drive. “Gas prices have plummeted, but the cycle of spiking prices is something people are getting wise to,” he said.

The Los Angeles Auto Show has leading the trend in promoting green cars. Earlier this year, car shows in Paris, Tokyo and Berlin exhibited more alternative fuel vehicles than ever.

Even though auto sales have taken a nosedive since the credit crunch and fuel costs have laid a double whammy on the car industry, Flynn and Cogan said the upcoming show would generate new excitement

“The automakers decide which cars they are going to bring to the show,” Cogan said. That could be seen in financially troubled General Motors’ decision to delay unveiling its new Buick LaCrosse model over worries of how well it would sell in a slipping economy, according to Bloomberg News.

General Moters reported a 45 percent decline in sales last month – the worst October in 25 years. Ford reported a 30 percent drop for last month while Chrysler said its sales plummeted 35 percent. Even Japanese automakers said sales were dismal with Toyota reporting a 23 percent decline and Honda showing a 28 percent drop.

But in Los Angeles, the show must go on in the face of a gloomy economy. To brighten it up, green will be the color of the day around the Convention Center.

“My part is to support what [automakers] bring to the show,” Cogan said.

Debuts at this year’s show include the Mini E electric car, which wasn’t ready for mass production when Cogan chose the finalists for the Green Car of the Year Award.

Cogan’s finalists for the award include: the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI and BMW 335d, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid and the tiny gasoline-powered smart fortwo, which debuted at the show last year. The winning car will be unveiled at a Nov. 20 morning press conference at the auto show.

Cogan had to defend last year’s Green Car Award winner – the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUV – because environmentalists said he was wrong to honor a large vehicle that at best gets only 20 miles per gallon on the highway. Critics also said only several thousand of the Tahoe hybrids were manufactured and fewer than that were actually sold.

Cogan defended the winner by saying its technology will be used in smaller passenger cars in the near future.

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