Sunday, March 6, 2011

Toyota Tough?

I said it (in carefully chosen company) when NATO invaded Afghanistan: "Toyota's are Taliban-tough".  And I'll say it again now; the best free advertising Toyota can get is the nightly news showing Libyan rebels using their little pickup trucks in the current insurrections across north Africa (and other war zones), often with a machine gun mounted in the bed and at least four guys riding back there.  I vividly remember the road to Kabul being littered with boulders, crevices and vehicles, while a BBC reporter and his crew were transported foot by rocky foot through the mountain passes in a fleet of Toyotas.  (The more disgusting images were surrepticious videos of executions in a soccer stadium - the victims and executioners all arriving in Toyotrucks, but only the executioners leaving that way.)  I seem to remember reading somewhere that Toyota produces lower-tech vehicles for the third world, a market where warranties, mechanics and consumer advocates are in short supply.  I'm sure several manufacturers do.  Any way, the point is that you can't buy advertising as good as that, the subliminal effect of which would probably be somehow illegal in the West if it was staged, not real.  But then the question arises: does Toyota seek out regimes like those to sell to in the first place?  Are they the only supplier to that market, or does every auto manufacturer compete for dictator dollars?  Are they really that tough or are they the only vehicles around with a name big enough to see on the tailgate?  After all, you don't see any Nissans, Mazdas or Hyundais on war zone news - just Toyotas.  (We've owned every one of them over the years, with little perceptible difference in "toughness".)  Whatever the case, it can be argued that oppressors will get their vehicles from somewhere so it might as well be Toyota.  And it is great free advertising for other markets around the world.