Electioneering is redlining. One indicator: The Michigan Republican Party is protesting loudly against an improbable stunt: A Toyota Tundra will pull the retired space shuttle Endeavor to its final resting place at the California Science Center (CSC). This has the Reps up in arms: “”Barack Obama acts as if he single handedly built the U.S. domestic auto industry, meanwhile, a symbol of American greatness will be towed to its final resting place by a foreign competitor, forever cementing the image of a Toyota truck towing a retired space shuttle,” Matt Frendewey, director of communications for the Michigan Republican Party, told the Detroit News.
Aside from the politics, the DetN saw a technical problem: The Shuttle and its, well, trailer, weighs close to 300,000 pounds. A Tundra has a maximum towing capacity of 10,100 pounds. Toyota fed the DetN the story that it developed “a dolly specifically for hauling the Endeavor.”
Commenters to the DetN story immediately engaged in a brawl of donkeys against elephants. At Space.com, they are a bit more skeptic. Officially, the Endeavour will travel from LAX to the Science Center by way of the “four self-propelled, multi-axle vehicles” that were originally used to move the shuttles. On the last quarter mile, the Endeavour “will be towed using a Tundra CrewMax half-ton pickup, identical to 2012 models currently found in Toyota dealerships, with no additions to increase towing capacity or provide more power,” says Toyota.
Commenters at Space.com think that the Tundra will receive assistance from the multi-axle vehicles in the shuttle schlepp. Other commenters hope this is not true. We have asked Toyota whether the Tundra will do it under its own power. We’ll let you know what they say if they say it.
The Reps say that “the symbolism of this PR stunt should be offensive to every red-blooded American with vested interest in the success of the U.S. automotive industry.”
I guess if Ford, GM, or Chrysler would have paid for the honor of the last pull, American blood would not have to boil over. (We also asked how much Toyota paid, and do not expect an answer on that.)
The mud-slinging misses a more important, but also less black and white (or make that red and blue) issue: With the Shuttles heading to museums, the resupply of the International Space Station goes into private hands, those of Orbital and SpaceX. SpaceX is headed by Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla. Tesla is partially owned by – oops – Toyota, which invested $50 million into the company, and which contracted the powertrain of the electric RAV4 from Tesla.
And the answers are in … Toyota Motors Sales chief spokesman Mike Michels says ..
On the pulling: “Yes, the Tundra will pull by itself. The majority of the transit will be aboard a self-propelled mover. For the last block or two to the Science Center it will be transferred to special dollies for the approach to the facility and the Tundra will tow it.”
On the money: “No payment was made for this event. As a member of the Southern California Community since 1957, Toyota has been a supporter of the California Science Center from the very beginning.”
On the hubbub: “SoCal is our hometown where we employ approximately 6000 people, and we are honored to be able to be part of this event.”
Toyota has been a supporter of the California Science Center for 20 years and is providing financial support for Phase 3 of the center. No stand-alone payment for the truck-pull has been made, says Michels.
Toyota U.S. sometimes (only half jokingly) calls itself “California’s largest car company.” The Tundra is an All-American effort with an American Chief Engineer. The truck is produced in the heart of truck country, Texas, from where the Tundra is exported to all parts of the world. Even the folks at Toyota Japan concede that the Tundra “was an American idea.” Calling it offensive to every red-blooded American is a disgrace.