‘Pretty hypocritical’: Campaign targets Toyota

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The campaign, which is set to launch later today and has not been previously reported, is dubbed “Toyota Can’t Be Trusted.”

Its launch is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Toyota Prius, one of the bestselling hybrid-electric vehicles in the United States.

While the Prius has bolstered Toyota’s reputation as environmentally conscious, the automaker last year intervened in clean cars litigation in support of the Trump administration (Climatewire, Oct. 29, 2019).

“Toyota is speaking out of two sides of their mouth here,” said Mary Creasman, chief executive officer of the California League of Conservation Voters, one of the groups behind the campaign. The other groups include the Power Shift Network and San Diego 350.

“They want to be a green automaker, and the anniversary of the iconic Prius is coming up soon,” Creasman said. “At the same time, they are actively advocating against clean car standards and the ability of California to lead the way. So it really is pretty hypocritical.”

Along with General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota filed a motion to intervene last fall in Environmental Defense Fund v. Chao, a lawsuit brought by environmental groups over EPA’s revocation of California’s Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases.

The motion expressed support for scrapping the Clean Air Act waiver, which gives California the legal authority to set tougher vehicle emission standards than those of the federal government.

Fourteen other states have adopted those tougher standards, which took on newfound significance after the Trump administration rolled back the federal clean car rules established by President Obama (Greenwire, March 31).

The campaign comes with a splashy new website that states in all caps: “STOP GREENWASHING OUR DIRTY AIR.”

The site directs visitors to a letter urging local officials in California to follow Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in refusing to purchase vehicles for city fleets from Toyota and other automakers that sided with Trump.

In addition, the site includes a link to a petition urging Toyota and other automakers to withdraw their support for the Trump administration in the clean cars fight.

That support stands in sharp contrast to the position of five other automakers that have reached voluntary agreements with the California Air Resources Board, the state’s main air pollution regulator.

Those five automakers — Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Volkswagen AG, BMW of North America and Volvo — have agreed to follow the more stringent standards regardless of Trump’s rollback (Greenwire, July 25).

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, praised the initiative.

“Toyota declared war on the California clean car rules and Californians,” Becker said. “And Toyota knows that without tough rules, cars are going to pollute more and Californians and the climate will suffer.”

2 decades of the Prius

The Prius was one of the first mass-produced hybrid-electric cars, which can run on both electricity and gasoline.

Becker recalled viewing one of the first Priuses ever made at an exhibition in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. At the time, he was attending the Kyoto Protocol negotiations as director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program.

Three years later, when Toyota introduced the Prius in the United States on Aug. 1, 2000, Becker was one of the first customers to snap it up from a dealership lot.

He and his wife drove the car for 16 years “until it died,” he said, adding that they later purchased a replacement as well as a used model for their daughter.

But today, Becker wouldn’t dream of buying another Prius.

“I can’t say I would buy another Toyota product now because of what I know about their dastardly behavior,” he said.

Creasman, of the California League of Conservation Voters, said she hopes the campaign bites into Toyota’s profits in California, where Priuses are a common sight on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Eleven percent of all new car registrations occur in the Golden State, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Toyota is expected to account for 17% of car sales in the state this year.

“I’ve heard from so many members who basically said, ‘What the hell? I own a Prius, and I feel so betrayed by the company,'” Creasman said.

“It’s deeply disturbing that not only do we have to fight the Trump administration, but some of the companies that have decided to get in bed with them,” she added.

A Toyota spokesman didn’t respond to multiple emailed requests for comment in time for publication.