UK Greenpeacers Lock Down to Range Rover Assembly Line

SOLIHULL, UK, May 17, 2005 (ENS) - Early Monday morning 35 Greenpeace volunteers disrupted an assembly line making Ford Range Rovers, the first time anywhere in the world that protesters have shut down a factory making sports utility vehicles.

At the Land Rover factory in Solihull near Birmingham, the protesters, disguised as contractors, used safety shut-down buttons to cut off power to the assembly line before handcuffing and chaining themselves to unfinished vehicles.

Saying that the urban 4x4s made at the factory are "wrecking the climate" the Greenpeacers put yellow crime scene tape around the area.

By three in the afternoon, all activists have been cut away from the assembly line and 15 had been arrested, police said.

Greenpeace UK executive director Stephen Tindale, a former Labour Party environment adviser, is one of the volunteers who chained himself to a Range Rover chassis. He said, "We've taken direct action to stop Land Rover making these gas-guzzling urban 4x4s."

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Greenpeacer tapes the Range Rover factory with fake crime scene tape. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
"The company used to have a reputation for making working vehicles," said Tindale, "but now they market themselves as the car company for people who love the wilderness while simultaneously producing cars that threaten our environment with catastrophic climate change."

Range Rover's parent company, Ford, is losing money and shedding jobs in America because sales of their gas-guzzling models are falling, whereas Asian companies are thriving by making fuel efficient vehicles, said Greenpeace. "With a climate crisis developing and oil at over $US 50 a barrel, car-makers who want to save jobs have to stop making gas guzzlers."

Mark Foster, Land Rover's manager of corporate communications, told reporters, "The action taken by Greenpeace at the Land Rover Solihull plant is both regrettable and damaging." The company takes its responsibility to the environment seriously, Foster said.

The Range Rover is the UK's least fuel efficient 4x4 "doing a criminal 12 miles to the gallon in urban areas," Greenpeace said, pointing out that the new $83,000 Range Rover Sport "does fewer miles to the gallon than the Model T Ford built 80 years ago."

Greenpeace did not shut down production of the Land Rover Defender, most of which are used for "legitimate" agricultural and industrial purposes.

"Making cars like this for urban use is crazy," Greenpeace said. "Land Rover aggressively markets its range of 4x4s - like Discovery and Range Rover - in towns and cities throughout the UK. It spends 3 million on advertising in London alone. Land Rover's parent company Ford has also stood in the way of government action to tackle climate change both in Europe and the U.S."

Climate change is the greatest threat the planet is facing, said Greenpeace, asking supporters to send an online fax to Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him "to increase road tax for gas-guzzlers and offer incentives for people who choose to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles."

In the UK, road transport accounts for about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions.