Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 8:49 PM EDT
It's impossible to know how much of Detroit's sales declines and Toyota's gains reflect how green their cars are. But Ted Grozier, an associate at the environmental strategy consulting firm GreenOrder, believes that a fundamental shift in consumer preference is occurring. "We expect to see a lot more consumers choosing environmentally preferable vehicles," he says. And right now, Toyota may be leading the pack. Even though it's slightly behind Honda, it has a much broader vehicle lineup, with large sport-utility vehicles, cars, and pickups not offered by Honda. "One of the big stories in the rankings is Toyota," says UCS's MacKenzie [engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists]. "It proves that size is no excuse for a dirty fleet. Toyota has big vehicles in categories where Honda does not compete, yet it nearly tied Honda" in the overall ranking.It would take some really fancy statistical work to get a definitive sense of the influence of consumers' eco-preference on American car sales. But it's easy to conclude that the Big Three had better green themselves up, lest they become compost for their environmentally-minded competitors.