A Less Green Toyota

Environmentalists seeing the less-green side of Toyota

By Kevin Miller

10.05.2007

According to the National Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) media center, Toyota’s US headquarters “has received more than 8150 messages from citizens demanding an explanation for the company’s stance on fuel economy.” The people sending these messages to Toyota are upset that Toyota has joined forces with domestic automakers to lobby in Washington, DC, against an energy bill with stricter fuel economy standards. The NRDC contends that as a “green automaker”, Toyota should be in support of higher fuel economy regulations.

While environmentalists have kept busy for the last few years praising Toyota and all of its earth-friendly hybrids, they have been blind to the not-so-green cars and trucks that Toyota builds. During the time that the Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid have become the poster-vehicles of Toyota’s green movement, the company has completed the building of a new factory in Texas for production of its full-sized Tundra pickup truck, which launched earlier this year. Toyota is a full-line vehicle manufacturer, and in addition to the three hybrid models, it produces minivans, large and small sedans, and SUVs, three of which are available with 8-cylinder engines and four-wheel drive.

It’s these 8-cylinder SUVs and the 6- and 8-cylinder trucks, SUVs, and minivans that Toyota is using to compete against domestic automakers’ equivalent vehicles. The poor fuel economy Toyota’s large vehicles achieve means that it will be no easier for Toyota to meet higher Federal fuel economy standards than it will for the domestic automakers. That’s why Toyota is joining GM, Ford, and Chrysler to lobby against the higher efficiency standards.

Toyota has marketed itself as a green automaker, and a lot of people in the United States have bought in to that identity. Those same people are starting to wake up to a harsh reality: that Toyota is a company that manufactures vehicles to make money. Like other car companies, Toyota tries to be in the business of building vehicles that people want to drive and therefore want to buy. Since people want to drive full-size pickups and SUVs with 8-cylinder engines, Toyota manufactures them. Other people want to drive fuel-efficient hybrid cars they feel are good for the environment, so Toyota manufactures those too. Environmental groups are beginning to see through the green mist surrounding Toyota, and they are discovering that beyond their much-hyped hybrid products, Toyota is just another automaker out to make a profit, rather than a company out to change the world.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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6 Comments

  1. It’s about time the moronic public woke up to the fact that Toyoya has their best interests at heart, not the public’s.

    For years I’ve heard people extoll the virtues of Toyota as a good corporate citizen and a global force for good against the evil Big Three automakers, and it made me want to throw up. At last the veil is being lifted.

  2. Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that Toyotas are not made out of sunshine and gumdrops, and that what comes out of their tailpipes is NOT good for the environment???

    This cannot be true, can it?

  3. Looks like a sort of “ransom of glory” for Toyota. Even Thomas Friedman had joined the parade, I don’t know if he had saw the light or he’s simply waked up and smell the coffee or if he discovered then Toyota had lost the image of the little guy/underdog.

    I imagine Wagonner telling to Wanatabe “welcome to my life” to the tune of the song performed by the Canadian band Simple Plan.

  4. Looks like the anti-Toyota crowd is all revved up over the revelatiion that Toyota makes six-cylinder and eight-cylinder engines. What a shocker. Their cars still get better fuel mileage and break down a LOT LESS often than other cars, so overall, a Toyota cost the average Joe less money to own. And then of course, there’s resale value. Any of you Toyota-bashers care to broach that subject?

    Nothing but silence, I’m sure.

  5. Well, an OEM is kind of damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Make polluting inefficient cars? Damn you! Make green cars and hope to make money on them? Damn you! I guess the only business model one segment of the population would accept is: “Make green cars and make sure you lose money on them.” Oh well.

  6. Well said, glenn!

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