Big Three Going "Green" With Envy Over Toyota?

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2007 | 1:05 PM ET

Forget about L.A. being tinsel town, and style capital. At this year's Los Angeles Auto Show the automakers are trying to wrap themselves in the "Green Leaf" of fuel efficiency. Ford announced a new sustainability plan that will include developing direct injection gas engines, lighter cars, and more hybrids.

Chrysler is touting its Hybrid Dodge Durango and all-electric Gem cars. GM is showing its hybrid Chevy Silverado pick-up and renewing its pledge to make more fuel efficient vehicles. You get the picture.

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The automakers are all "getting religion". Sure they are doing it because high gas prices will continue pushing demand for fuel efficient vehicles. But there's something else at play here. Call it "keeping up with jones," or in this case, "keeping up with Toyota"

They have seen the success Toyota's enjoyed with its wildly popular gas-electric hybrid Prius. The other automakers want the same halo effect. GM's Vice Chair Bob Lutz told me this morning that his company will not stand by and let a competitor take the mantle of being the "green automaker".

Whether or not these messages convince the public the Big Three are truly "going green", remains to be seen. One thing is certain, this is just the start and the automakers have a long ways to go to catch up with Toyota.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.