SAN FRANCISCO – The Jumpstart Ford Campaign celebrated a victory this week when AutoNation (NYSE: AN) became the first major car dealer to join Plug-In Partners, calling on automakers to manufacture plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and make them available to American customers. PHEVs are hybrid vehicles that dramatically reduce our dependence on oil by plugging into the grid to recharge. PHEVs achieve up to 100 mpg and offer customers a real-world solution to high gas costs, poor air quality, climate change and over-reliance on oil. AutoNation is linking to Plug-In Partners’ website where customers can place “soft orders” for PHEVs.

For three years, the Jumpstart Ford Campaign has been enlisting the support of Ford dealers to help persuade Ford Motor Company to stop pushing gas-guzzling cars, trucks and SUVs. Following a series of grassroots activities that included local dealer “adoptions,” a speakers’ tour, letter writing campaigns, public demonstrations and an educational dialogue, AutoNation became the largest dealership group in the country to actively help break America’s oil addiction. Of the 20 million barrels of oil consumed in the United States each day, 70 percent is used for transportation.

“We applaud AutoNation for taking soft orders for plug-in hybrids and leading the way in reducing America’s oil addiction,” said Sarah Connolly, Zero Emissions Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network. “AutoNation understands that plug-in hybrids are among the most promising technologies available today to improve vehicle fuel efficiency. We encourage other dealers to join AutoNation, and we urge automakers, especially Ford, to follow the lead of the largest auto dealer in the nation and commit to mass produce plug-in hybrids”

“The development of plug-in hybrids could reduce America’s addiction to oil,” said AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson in today’s Plug-In Partners press release. “These new hybrids would offer consumers a 50-mile all-electric range, get the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon, can be fully recharged at night and deliver all the performance and comfort of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles without the damaging emissions. We believe Americans will buy these vehicles, which is why we want to sell them.”

A soft order is a commitment from an individual, business, or unit of government to purchase a PHEV once the ultra-efficient vehicles become commercially available. With this commitment, AutoNation joins a national initiative intended to demonstrate to automakers the burgeoning demand for plug-in vehicles, which are capable of 100+ miles per gallon, The non-profit organization Plug-In Partners was formed in 2006 with the aim of procuring soft fleet orders around the country. To date, Plug-In Partners has formed partnerships with nearly 60 cities and counties – including Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore and Phoenix – as well as dozens of environmental and human rights groups including Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange, national security organizations, businesses and utilities.

“After a year of campaigning inside and outside of dealerships, we are glad to see AutoNation is making this commitment. We hope that Ford and other automakers will take this as yet another sign that its company’s future is in improving its fuel economy and leading the nation in miles per gallon not gas guzzled,” said Mike Hudema, Independence from Oil Director with Global Exchange. “In addition to continuing to push Ford, we will also be working with energy companies to ensure that when these vehicles hit the market they are plugging into a clean grid.”

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The Jumpstart Ford Campaign is working to end America’s oil dependence, reduce oil related conflicts, and stop global climate change by convincing the auto industry to dramatically improve fuel efficiency and eliminate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Launched by Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network and The Ruckus Society in 2003, the campaign has specifically targeted Ford Motor Company because the US Environmental Protection Agency has consistently ranked the company at or near the bottom in overall fuel economy among major American automakers.

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