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'Marketplace' Report: Green Cars
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'Marketplace' Report: Green Cars



Back now with DAY TO DAY. Now find out whether you drive a green or a mean car. There's a new survey out today on environmentally friendly and not-so-friendly cars. It's put out by a group called the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Steve Tripoli from MARKETPLACE is here with the results. And Steve, I imagine hybrids are on the list of the greenest cars.

STEVE TRIPOLI: They are, Madeleine, but not as much as you might think - not has many. Only four of the top 12 green cars are hybrids. The greenest car of all is the Honda Civic GX, which isn't a hybrid at all, but something even more exotic. It runs on natural gas. You can buy that car, but there aren't too many out there.

BRAND: And the non-hybrid green machines?

TRIPOLI: Two Toyotas, two Hondas, two Hyundais and a Kia. That's the rest of the top 12, and there's not a single American car for only the second time in the 10 years this list has been kept. And gee, Madeleine, isn't it funny how those top 12 names all seem to be the most profitable car companies, too? I wonder why that be?

BRAND: Why might that be?

TRIPOLI: Well, because they're on top of the energy-efficiency thing.

BRAND: And people like that. Well, they also like their mean machines, as well, right?

TRIPOLI: That's true, and it's your usual assortment. The top 12 mean machines of big SUVs, trucks, headed by the Volkswagen Touareg and the Mercedes GL320. Those are both diesels. There are five diesels in the dirty 12 this year, and all of them are among the seven worst. And, you know, that kind of points up an example of how confusing car buying can be.

Americans haven't been using diesels as much as Europeans do, even though they get good mileage, because their emissions have been so bad. But there actually have been some big steps taken to clean up diesel emissions, and it's just that the cars in this list don't reflect those improvements yet. So be careful if you're looking at diesels for which one you buy.

BRAND: Right, and you could also convert your diesel to veggie oil. What else is of interest on this year's list?

TRIPOLI: Well, I think what's interesting is that there's more good news this year than previously in two ways. Here's James Kliesch from the Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Mr. JAMES KLIESCH (Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy): There are about a dozen different name plates beyond the top 12 that score incredibly well. Now what we're seeing is while the imports still have control over say the top half of the greenest-vehicles list, there's a lot of jockeying for positions in the bottom half of the list, and that does include some domestic models.

TRIPOLI: So there are more green choices than before. These added choices are closing the gap on the green ratings of the top 12. And lo and behold, there are some Americans. They are including a couple of Fords: the Escape Hybrid SUV and the Focus Wagon.

So in case you're thinking of buying one of these green machines, Madeleine, coming up later on MARKETPLACE today, we're looking at a new way to get a loan. Get onto the Internet and borrow from your peers.

BRAND: Thank you, Steve - Steve Tripoli of public radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE. It's produced by American Public Media.

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