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News Organization Makes Statement with Hybrid Vehicles

July 2005, by Fiona Soltes

When a news organization claims to be “as local as local news gets,” community concerns hit pretty close to home. And in the Bronx, pollution is near the top of the list. So when it came time for News 12 The Bronx to replace its aging fleet of four-door sedans, an idea was born: Why not exchange them for fuel-efficient hybrid cars that could not only make a difference, but also make a statement? “We’re completely dedicated to this community, and that makes us servants to the community, too,” said Camilo Pombo-Saenz, general manager and news director. “As part of the community, we have to be responsible to it.” Talks began back in January 2004, and by summer, the station had taken delivery of nine new Toyota Prius hybrids for its news-gathering teams. The purchase price was “in the ballpark” of other vehicles being considered, Pombo-Saenz said, (the cars go for about $20,000) so it was an easy way to be proactive about the environment without additional costs. The station selected the Toyota gas-electric hybrids over industry competitors because of the available space for camera crews and equipment, as well as the fact that they looked different enough to draw attention to what the station was trying to do. And that’s just the kind of thing Tom Voll, Toyota’s New York region fleet field manager, likes to hear. Pombo-Saenz was “very progressive” in his thinking, said Voll, and he admired the newsman’s fortitude and willingness to take the idea all the way up the news station’s corporate structure. “But we’re finding that the economics of running these cars has been very favorable to companies,” Voll said. “People who have driven them enjoy them, they’re functional, and at the same time, the companies are wrapping public relations around the green image of the Prius being in line with their corporate environmental policies.” The only obstacle with the Prius purchase was that the cars can be difficult to obtain. Due to high demand, delivery can take several months. News 12 The Bronx hasn’t had the vehicles long enough to do annual lifecycle cost comparisons. But so far, according to Pombo-Saenz, the indications look good. The experience has been positive enough that, as vehicles need to be replaced in any other News 12 organization’s New York operations, hybrids will be in the running. The Bronx was simply the first due to its urban status and smog levels. “Hybrid is where the future is,” Pombo-Saenz said. “We’re going to keep going with them.”
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