A Less Green Toyota
By Kevin Miller
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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