Green By Example

When it comes to championing a cause, governments invariably retort to ‘do as I say and not as I do’.  So, when Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King recently waved goodbye to his Maserati Quattroporte, in favour of a relatively anonymous-looking limousine whose main claim to fame is fuel efficiency, it was nice to see someone actually doing something positive about trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the past, Mr King was a self-confessed petrolhead, and favoured big-engined beasts. This time, when he decided he wanted a new company car, he spent ages comparing their environmental credentials before choosing one. Perhaps a sign that the boyish grocer is growing up, or a hint at how fashions are changing?

As Mr King spends between 20 and 30 hours per week in the back seat, both between meetings in London and during his commute from the Midlands, he decided an environmentally friendly limousine was the way to go. In the end, he chose a long wheelbase Lexus LS600h L, a petrol-electric hybrid car that is essentially a much larger and considerably more luxurious version of Toyota's popular Prius.

Lexus is well aware of the importance of being seen to be green.  In recent months, the Japanese carmaker has won over a string of high level executive - including Mr King's main rival, Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy - as well as many celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney and his daughter Stella.

The Lexus LS600h L comes with a reclining leather massaging seat and bundles of electronic gadgets. It has radar cruise control, LED headlights and the air-conditioning system uses infra-red technology – a world first according to Lexus - to measure the body temperature of the occupants and adjust the car's temperature accordingly. The car is also equipped with a "pre-crash" system. Radar monitors the road ahead and, if it senses a crash is imminent during an emergency stop, it will apply maximum brake pressure (in case the driver has not pushed the brake pedal hard enough), stiffen the front suspension and tension the seatbelts in preparation for the worst.

Lexus has discovered the best way to establish credibility is to do what the Germans do: lead with technology. And so the LS600 is the world's largest and most powerful hybrid car - and has many other world firsts to its credit. BMW and Mercedes-Benz are due to release hybrid limousines during the next two years. For once in the super-luxury market, the Japanese have beaten the Germans to the punch.

Therefore, when you need to hire a limo for yourself or for a corporate function, there will be no excuse for the not going green.

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