Honda this week announced that it was sending a few dozen of its brand-new FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, sending them to Southern California. The company said three-year leases will run $600 a month, and that a year from now an addition 200 cars will be available.
The cars have been sent to Southern California not just for the celebrity value – Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest are among the first to drive the Clarity – but also because its relative abundance of hydrogen fuel stations. There are three such stations in the L.A. area, in Irvine, Santa Monica and Torrance, and very few outside of that region.
The new green vehicle comes as the auto industry is reeling from steady, record-breaking gas prices. The Associated Press reported that Ford Motor Co. will have to close a Michigan factory that made SUVs for nine weeks due to a significant drop in demand for the large, inefficient vehicles.
The truck plant, just west of Detroit in Wayne, Mich., is a production site for the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, which have seen drops in sales of 31 percent and 22 percent, respectively, according to Autodata sales figures.
At the same time, General Motors announced earlier this week that it would start a third shift at a manufacturing facility in Ohio that makes two small, fuel-efficient vehicles, the Chevy Cobalt and the Pontiac G5.
And the oil industry has begun responding to political and public criticism of its record profits, according to a Wall St. Journal report [subscription required]. The article cites moves by Exxon Mobil to run heavy television and print advertising during the NBA finals and during talk shows, and an industry-wide 18 percent increase in total advertisements in the first quarter of 2008.