Toyota’s ‘Green Halo’ Challenged

by | Oct 5, 2007

During the past two weeks, about 8,300 Natural Resources Defense Council activists sent e-mails and faxes to Toyota, maker of the Prius, urging the company to support a Senate energy bill that would set a 35-mile-per-gallon requirement by 2020, Business Week reports.The Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Environmental Trust, are mobilizing to challenge Toyota for supporting a more modest approach on CAFE standards that would require 32 to 35 mpg by 2022.

“They have a green halo, justifiably, and yet unbeknownst to their customers they’ve joined forces with the Detroit Three to argue against greener standards,” said Deron Lovaas, the NRDC’s vehicles campaign director, in the article.

Toyota says that the alternative bill still would raise the standards up to 40 percent and give automakers more time to meet the goals. The company said it would respond to the messages it receives.

In the New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman wrote (via NRDC’s blog), “‘Toyota, which pioneered the industry-leading, 50-miles-per-gallon Prius hybrid, has joined with the Big Three U.S. automakers in lobbying against the tougher mileage standards in the Senate version of the draft energy bill. Now why would Toyota, which has used the Prius to brand itself as the greenest car company, pull such a stunt? Is it because Toyota wants to slow down innovation in Detroit on more energy efficient vehicles, which Toyota already dominates, while also keeping mileage room to build giant pickup trucks, like the Toyota Tundra, at the gas-guzzler end of the U.S. market?”

Here’s the text of the message NRDC’ activists have sent to Shigeru Hayakawa, Toyota President and CEO:

I am very disappointed to learn about Toyota’s opposition to a sensible increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. If your company is serious about fighting America’s addiction to oil, it’s time for your lobbying to match your advertising rhetoric.

Toyota’s advertisements paint the company as the greenest, most fuel-efficient car company on the market. If that’s the case, why is Toyota an active member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a Washington lobbying group that claims that a sensible 35 mile per gallon standard is “unattainable”?

Americans who love the Prius thought that Toyota was a leader in the field. But, based on your lobbying activities, you’re no different from all of the other auto companies.

As a consumer, I urge you to call for a 35 mile per gallon standard by 2020 that allows for continuous improvement after 2020. I further urge you to withdraw Toyota from any lobbying association that opposes a 35 mpg standard.

Toyota sold a record 16,062 Priuses in July – a 50 percent increase versus the month last year.

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