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Originally published August 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 4, 2005 at 4:45 PM

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Toyota's U.S. boss asks rivals to a summit on environment

The U.S. chief of Toyota, the world's second-largest automaker, urged competitors to join Toyota for a summit on issues such as global...

Bloomberg News

The U.S. chief of Toyota, the world's second-largest automaker, urged competitors to join Toyota for a summit on issues such as global warming so the industry can influence environmental regulations.

"I propose we put together a meeting of top automotive leaders in a neutral location where we all leave our company name badges at the door," Jim Press, president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, said yesterday in a speech in Traverse City, Mich.

"Think what we could do with issues like CAFE and global warming if we join hands and develop our own vision for the future, rather than waiting for regulators to do it for us." CAFE is short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, the U.S. rules that govern fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks.

Regulators in California, Toyota's U.S. sales base, are preparing to implement in 2009 the nation's first program designed to curb auto emissions linked to global warming. Toyota and most of the largest automakers in the United States, through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, filed a suit last year in federal court in California to block the state's initiative.

The California plan, when fully implemented in 10 years, would require new cars sold in the state to travel an average of 43 miles on a gallon of gasoline, according to a study by the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

Current U.S. rules under CAFE require car fleets to get 27.5 miles per gallon and light trucks to get 21 miles.

A meeting among automakers "is a very good idea," said Dennis Virag, president of the Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Everyone is facing the same issues."

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, began selling fuel-saving gasoline-electric hybrid cars in 1997 and has marketed its environmental record. The company said last month it plans to add a gasoline-electric pickup truck to its hybrid lineup.

A conference of automakers is needed "because our future depends on it," Press said. "Now is the time because there's a new spirit of cooperation within government, universities and advocacy groups."

In an interview later, Press said, "Instead of trying to block legislation, we should steer it." He said he had reviewed the idea with other companies and had received "positive feedback." He declined to specify which companies.

Press also said Toyota may generate up to 25 percent of U.S. sales from gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles by 2010. The company has a goal of selling 1 million hybrid cars and trucks annually, of which about 600,000 would be in the United States, he said during the speech.

Toyota's U.S. shares fell 59 cents to $76.36 yesterday.

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