Emily Pilloton

Greenwashing Eli Manning's New Hybrid Caddi-Wack Escalade

by , 02/05/08

superbowl 2008, eli manning escalade, hybrid escalade, auto greenwashing, transportation tuesday, green cars, hybrid SUV, eli manning hybrid, hybrid cadillac

Who doesn’t love the Superbowl? The competition, the commercials, the excuse to drink beer. This year’s champ, the New York Giants, certainly deserved the title, though I wonder if their quarterback, Eli Manning, “deserved” his Cadillac Escalade, a behemoth of a vehicle whose hybrid status seems like a serious dose of greenwashing. Blogstress Elizabeth Howard is asking Eli to give back the 18 mpg hybrid gas guzzler, and we’ll second that motion.


The hybrid SUV is a classic example of the “how much is good enough” issue inherent to so much of corporations’ going green efforts. Okay, so the Escalade is greenER, but isn’t this really just a green marketing spin on a bigger issue? Should we applaud GM for even making such efforts or scold them for their continuous production of such an unnecessarily large and inefficient vehicle? The fact that it’s given as the prize for winning America’s biggest sporting event is even more troubling- we’re essentially sending the message that the best reward is misrepresented, irresponsible luxury.

I suppose the silver lining is that Eli Manning chose the hybrid SUV from a variety of Cadillacs. The Hybrid Escalade, which will be available later this year, was Eli’s “responsible” choice, however clouded in materialism it may have been. “I know it comes out in the summer. I want the first one.”

In addition to the Escalade debacle, the Superbowl was rife with “green” auto commercials as well, all showcasing their newest high-fuel-efficiency models, topping out at a not-so-impressive 21 miles per gallon. What gives? Is 2008, the year of green going mainstream, going to continue down this path of mass pop culture greenwashing? As an iconic annual American event with such ubiquity and advertising value (30 second advertising spots went for upwards of $2.5 million) it’s a shame to see such public displays. We think it’s a missed opportunity for companies to set an example, to prove that going green should be about re-examining corporate priorities instead of reverting to the lowest common denominator or lesser of two evils.

We’d love to hear your thoughts… let the debates begin.

+ Cadillac Superbowl video of Eli Manning

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18 Comments

  1. Curtis February 11, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Lets do some math.

    Assumptions:
    A. Someone who buys an SUV will not willingly switch to a small economy car.
    B. The vehicles actually get the advertised EPA MPG.
    C. Both drive 12,000 miles in one year city
    D. Both drive 3,000 miles in one year highway
    E. Gas costs $3/gal (US)

    2008 Tahoe Std 2wd – 16/22 mpg
    2008 Tahoe Hyb 2wd – 21/22 mpg
    ——————————
    Savings per yr = 179 gallons / $535.80

    2008 Civic Std – 26/34
    2008 Civic Hyb – 40/45
    ———————-
    Savings per yr = 183 gallons / $548.40

    So the Tahoe saves practically as much gas/carbon/money as the Civic. So if you accept reality that someone interested in a SUV is going to get an SUV it might as well be a hybrid.

    Of course they would save even more if they switched from a Tahoe to a civic hybrid, but people aren’t goint to make that switch if they’re in the market for an SUV.

  2. Tom Street February 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    The debate about mpg may turn out to be beside the point. Any really significant changes in the amount of oil we use will be achieved by reducing vehicle miles traveled. Regardless of what car you own, you really start doing the planet a favor when you don’t drive the damn thing. Having said that, I own and drive a Prius but would like to be in a situation where I owned and drove nothing.

    Further, increasessin vehicle ownership and miles driven in places like India and China will dwarf whatever paltry savings Americans make over the next decade or two. Even further, if, as it appears, we have already reached peaked oil, we are just arguing over how we allocate the remaining oil.

    We all need to get out of our cars, people. And even if the downward slope of oil production continues, we simply won’t have a choice.

    The future is not in mpg; we will be arguing about mp kwh.

  3. Ryan February 8, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    If you are willing to pay an extra $14,000 to gain a whopping 2-5 mpg, you have way too much money. 14 mpg is not good gas mileage, nor is the 22 mpg that the hybrid gains. When did we lower the bar so low that our “best” cars won’t meet resonable standards. The technology exists and is easy to implement, but Detroit and the oil companies have such an infatuation with each other that Detroit doesn’t see what the market is telling them. We must educate people that a “hybrid” does not mean that it is efficient. Electric motors can produce as much or more power than any gas or diesel engine, why not push for a change that is effiecient not just trendy.

  4. Pete February 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Does Eli even drive an SUV? If he does wouldn’t this one be better? Most sports people (NFL, NBA, MLB) drive big SUV’s or high powered sedans or coupes that would be lucky to get to the mpg’s of the hybrid. If he drives an SUV this would be a big improvement if he switches to it. Then again hybrids only help in the city type of driving and we don’t know where he drives to and from.

    Yes its a publicity stunt. It makes people feel better to have the “hybrid” badge on their car. If they are going to buy an Escalade anyways why not the one that uses less gas?? I’d want one if I could afford it… as a people mover/stuff mover when needed, and maintain a more efficient vehicle for everyday use. Air Conditioned Seats are great in Florida!

  5. Carbon tax February 7, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    This GM stunt was just as dumb as the Tahoe hybrid “award” to Ichiro Suzuki for being voted MVP of the MLB All Star Game. GM’s shallow attempts at being eco-responsible, e.g. 3-4 ton “hybrids” and flex fuel accomplish no more than putting lipstick on a pig, see yellow ribbon on your guzzler that says “Support our Troops”. Maybe when gas sells for over $4 (carbon tax!) people might walk or bike a little, eat healthier, dare vegan, and then they might actually fit into something more energy efficient, better yet high speed rail.

    PS: for those who believe biofuels or hydrogen is going to solve all our energy and climate change problems, please check out theoildrum.com

  6. Phil February 7, 2008 at 7:52 am

    To suggest manufacturers just make what people want is naive beyond belief. If advertising had no affect then no company would pay millions of dollars on huge campaigns. They wouldn’t pay for something that had no affect. Yes SUV’s have useful applications. They are the right tool for certain jobs, but the adds don’t show a sweaty labourer struggling to lift 20 bags of cement out of the back do they? They don’t show a farmer wading through cow sh** then jumping in. They make them appear glamourous and inviting to those living in the city where they are completely over engineered for the job in hand. I have kids – I survive perfectly well in the city without one.

  7. SCAQ Tony February 7, 2008 at 3:04 am

    I really don’t like hybrids. do a Google search on “Lithium Mine” and be prepared to see a hellacious hole in the ground! Lithium is not green. With all the laptops, ipods, and and car hybrids, lithium is not greening the planet.

    Hydrogen is the best bet!

  8. Mark February 6, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Manufacturers build what people want, plain and simple.

    Expanding on BAMF’s point, when I was a kid in the 70s/80s, my family had a gigantic Chevy Caprice wagon that would hold 3 kids, the dog, camping gear and tow a trailer (thanks to the big v8 engine).

    At some point, the government changed the rules on emissions for cars, and you could only get the kind of utility that the old caprice had if you bought a truck based SUV, which were exempt from the new rules. Prior to that, the only people driving SUVs were rural people and outdoor enthusiasts. The functionality is identical, except of the addition of four wheel drive. People actually USE these vehicles, so why not make them more efficient by adding a hybrid drive?

    As for the bells and whistles on the escalades etc., that’s just an appeal to vanity which is, unfortunately, part of the human condition. Witness the success of the Prius over the Civic hybrid (the main difference being that if you’re driving a Prius, people KNOW you’re driving a hybrid).

  9. Jason February 6, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I agree with John, it actually is a HUGE improvement, all made on the city MPG side. For a vehicle that large and inefficient to do the same in the city as highway is a good step in the right direction. Let’s face it, tiny hybrid cars aren’t for everyone. GM is trying to apply it to vehicles that will appeal to everyone, and has been one of the biggest pushers of FlexFuel also. Why assume that GM will say “good enough” and stop development here?

    Let’s cram 3 kids, the family dog, and luggage into the Civic and go to a national park for vacation! Sounds fun, huh? Yeah, didn’t think so.

    Let’s pile in the drywall into the trunk of the Civic and head to the job site. Don’t forget the enormous toolbox! Hmm, also doesn’t sound fun.

    Solution: hybrid Tahoe, hybrid Silverado. Not the greenest ever, but much better alternative for those that have no alternatives in vehicle size and choice.

    Get off your high horses. Open your eyes, realize there’s a whole world of different people with unique circumstances and needs.

  10. Phil February 6, 2008 at 5:37 am

    You can’t let the manufacturers wash their hands of the blame. They put the commercials into these prime spots and drive the desire to buy these ridiculous things by convincing the public they’re desirable. There’s no such thing as a completely independent, free thinking group of consumers forcing the manufacturers to make these things. If the automobile companies could make as much money from selling green products we’d all think they were cool by now, because there’d be endless ads telling us so. Don’t fall for their lines. They manipulate the consumer to buy what they want to sell them and then blame their customers for all the ills they do in pursuit of their own greed.

  11. B*A*M*F February 5, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    It’s strange to me that the first impulse of people is to blame the automakers for selling vehicles like the Hummer H2 and the Cadillac Escalade. GM (and others) make what people are willing to buy. It’s not as though the automakers all got together one day and decided that they would make SUVs and force people to buy them at gunpoint.

    Legitimately, SUVs do some things that the modern car won’t do (tow, go off a paved road, etc.). They also serve as status symbols too, but that could apply to any type of car. The rise of the SUV is pretty simple to explain. Detroit started making the kind of cars Japan was making, and in the process quit making VistaCruisers, Impalas, and other full size vehicles with the ability to tow anything, huge trunks, and abounding with space. SUVs are basically the classic American family car, the station wagon, only higher off the ground and with 4 wheel drive.

    I would disagree with calling car buyers idiots. When most people buy a car, they do so with criteria in mind that reflect some of their actual usage of the vehicle. If you have a few kids, and drive their friends around, you need space. You won’t do that all the time, but if you do it enough, it’s very easy for a buyer to justify getting a big vehicle. If you tow a sailboat, or a trailer for whatever reason, it again becomes easy to justify getting something with extra power. Those criteria are at the extreme end of the spectrum, and don’t reflect just driving to work, but most people can’t afford a commuter car, a family car, a tow vehicle, and every other type of vehicle that would fit each aspect of their driving needs.

  12. john February 5, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    If you crunch some numbers, I don’t think you will be quite as upset.

    If the new Tahoe/Escalade Hybrids get ~20 MPG as has been suggested they will that is a HUGE improvement over what they were getting around ~15 MPG. It doesnt sound like much but thats almost a 40% improvement.

    Go a step further –
    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/23048.shtml

    The gov shows 11.4 tons of CO2 emitted by a 2007 Tahoe. Only 8.70 tons by the 08 hybrid. A standard Honda Civic throws out 6.30 tons a year. You could almost park that civic inside the Tahoe!

    Yeah people should drive smaller cars, Yeah climate change is a big deal but come on and live in reality. People are going to buy SUVs and this is an impressive achievement.

  13. alan February 5, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Waaa. You’re not paying for his gas, so why worry about it? Auto manufacturers know SUVs sell, so at least they are making baby steps to increase the milage. It’s better than the 12 MPG it got before. Maybe in 5 years, it’ll be around 24 MPG, which wouldn’t be bad for a vehicle that weighs 4 tons.

  14. pdq1966 February 5, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Let’s face it, the automotive industry will not be the ones pushing for change. As sad as it is, they build cars for the customer, which happens to be idiots who think that they need to own these luxury monstrosities. If the demand was not there, the automotive industry would not make the vehicles. It is going to take government laws to push automobile makers into higher efficiency vehicles. The problem is most of the government officials have been “pocketed” by the automotive industry. My guess is that it will take an increase in gas prices beyond what the customers can afford and a downward spiraling (already occurring) of the economy before people start to make decisions based on efficiency. Sad but true. Capitalism combined with greed and social stratification has caused the people of the United States to be stuck in a rut of environmental injustice. Use only what you NEED can be displayed all over the town for water, heat, and electricity, problem is: people think they NEED 70- 75 F temperatures, 20 -30 minute showers, a large vehicle, and a large “entertainment center”. Resource cost needs to be adjusted to the NEED vs. exceed situations so that people that care (use less) pay less per watt, gallon, or therm than their inefficient counterparts. That is fair.

  15. NueveFiveOh February 5, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    The description of the Escalade as an “unnecessarily large and inefficient vehicle” is your own perception and opinion. However, you can not discount the fact that there is a legitimate and often necessary need for vehicles of this type. I give credit to GM for creating a hybrid SUV (and now pickups) of this size that gets better mileage (nearly 33% improvement over it’s non-hybrid counterpart) while still being able to tow and haul an impressive amount of cargo. When you think about it, wouldn’t it be better to focus your energy on getting soccer moms and single-passenger daily drivers to switch from SUV’s to something more appropriate?

  16. Hmmmmm February 5, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Funny. I had the same thought. I consider it the same as the builders who construct those huge homes, 10,000 sf+ and brag about how green the Media Room is…..

    BTW the Diesals get better gas mileage. Why not go that way? VW Passatt Wagon TDI = 65 miles to the gallon . Just a bit better than 18 mpg don’t ya think.

  17. tozmervo February 5, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I’m slashing the tires on the first hybrid Yukon I see.

  18. Nick Simpson February 5, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Green washing is going to be everywhere. Until there’s a body that can (and will) come out regularly and stop companies saying that their product is green when it blatantly isn’t, they’ll do it all day long. The majority of the public have no frame of reference so if they’re told something is green, they’ll believe it. Official standards need to be set, at which point companies would be at risk of misrepresentation if they greenwash.

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