From: Jay Lindsay, Associated Press
Published June 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Bank of America to Offer Incentives to Buy Hybrids

BOSTON — Driving a hybrid car already means free parking at meters in one Connecticut city and reserved parking spots near the front door of a New Hampshire company. Now, some Bank of America Corp. employees will receive $3,000 cash if they buy one of the fuel-efficient vehicles.


On Wednesday, the bank announced the incentive program for 21,000 employees in Boston, Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C., joining other companies and communities nationwide in pushing the hybrids.


Environmental officials said they hope the pilot program by the nation's largest retail bank has broad effects.


"When you have a major institution like Bank of America that is involved with so many other companies, there is a spin-off effect where they inspire other companies to follow their lead," said the Environmental Protection Agency's regional director, Bob Varney.


The city of New Haven, Conn., for instance, already offers free parking at city meters for residents, while footwear and apparelmaker Timberland Co., based in Stratham, N.H., created reserved parking spaces to go along with its own $3,000 cash incentive for employees who buy hybrids.


Google Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif., offers $5,000 cash to purchase and $2,500 to lease fuel-efficient cars -- not just hybrids -- that get at least 45 miles per gallon. Bank of America offers its rebate to any employee who buys a hybrid and lives within 90 miles of the three cities.


Anne Finucane, global marketing and corporate affairs executive for Bank of America, said her company's program was "enlightened self interest" because it will improve local environmental quality, strengthen its appeal to job seekers and attract new customers by boosting its corporate image


In an interview at the company's Charlotte, N.C., headquarters, Chief Administrative Officer Steele Alphin said, given the bank's size, it should lead efforts to protect the environment. "Shame on us if we did not," he said.


He said the company would evaluate the program in the fall to determine if it should be offered to all 202,000 of its employees.


The program was introduced as high gas prices spur economic worry and political posturing. House Republicans floated a proposal -- quickly shot down -- to give citizens $100 cash to help pay for higher fuel prices. And General Motors Corp. has tried to boost car sales in key markets by offering $2-per-gallon gas to new car buyers through the end of 2007.


Hybrids are powered by a gas engine and an electric motor, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. The hybrid Honda Civic, for example, gets 50 miles per gallon, compared to 34 miles per gallon for the regular Civic, according to hybridcars.com. But hybrid cars also cost more.


The Bank of America rebate matches a $3,000 federal tax credit for buying a hybrid. On Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pushed a bill his administration drew up with Senate leaders that would provide a $2,000 state tax credit, and move the cost of hybrid closer to a regular car. The bill has not been passed by the House.


Romney said the nation must reduce dependence on oil to avoid financing sometimes hostile, oil-rich regimes, and reduce pollution. The Bank of America program shows the nation is serious about better fuel economy, he said.


"So what they've done is make an enormous statement," Romney said. "This is going to have Detroit listening. The whole nation is going to be listening."


Source: Associated Press


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