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Prius owners have embraced Toyota’s flagship hybrid vehicle as a responsible measure to address environmental health.

Voices / Viewpoint

Toyota’s stance throws loyal environmental car buyers under the bus

Toyota has brought in billions of dollars in profits from citizens who buy Priuses out of concern for climate change. Why is it supporting Trump’s attempts to weaken California fuel-efficiency standards?

Nancy Braus is a bookseller and a longtime activist.

Putney

The recent announcement that Toyota would be joining hands with General Motors, Chrysler, Subaru, and Donald Trump in taking California to court to fight the congressionally mandated ability of that state to set its own fuel-efficiency standards is seriously distressing.

Not only California, but all of New England except New Hampshire; New York; New Jersey; and the West Coast rely on cleaner fuel for better air and a lower carbon footprint. And most of us living in these states support continued improvement in clean-air standards regarding tailpipe emissions.

Toyota has been a leader in hybrid technology for decades, since it introduced the first Prius in 1997. It is no exaggeration to say that a large percentage of climate activists who own cars have made the decision to own these models — in part, due to their excellent gas mileage, to the availability of electric charging stations, and to their durability.

In other words, Toyota has brought in billions of dollars in profits from citizens who are distressed and angry about climate change, many of whom are working for a sustainable future.

So this support of the most anti-environmental president in the history of the country throws all the many loyal environmentalist customers under the bus.

* * *

Greed is definitely the major incentive for multinational corporations, and clearly Toyota is no exception. The creative lie that these companies are peddling about their desire for the continued improvement in the standards and the “fact” that they are just working for one standard throughout the industry is just totally a fantasy.

If that were really the truth, given that California, Florida, Texas, and other parts of the United States are in crisis due to climate change, the California standard for car efficiency could easily be adopted by the entire industry all around the country.

Some automakers, including Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen, have chosen to support the legality of the California standard. This will be a long fight, as all sides have deep pockets.

Assuming Donald Trump is defeated in 2020 — an outcome I will be working hard to achieve — it is possible that this lawsuit will go away.

However, nothing in the future is guaranteed, and I have already contacted Toyota through the company’s email comment line to let it know that they have lost me as a future customer if this policy decision is not reversed.

I received an email reply that is full of lies and obfuscation, with sentences such as “joining this litigation does not mean we are taking sides politically.”

Huh?

If you are a Toyota owner or lessee and you care about the future of the air we breathe and the world we leave for our grandchildren, please contact this company. Let its leaders know that you are not about to let this one slide.

The support of a formerly respected company like Toyota gives a legitimacy to this destructive and life-threatening policy that is just wrong.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #535 (Wednesday, November 6, 2019). This story appeared on page D1.

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