Two Faced Toyota?

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
two faced toyota

Trivia buffs, scholars of ancient history and encyclopedia-reading geeks know the first month of the year is named for the Roman god Janus. Janus didn’t have any special powers. His entire claim to fame was based on having two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Since Janus could keep an eye on what was coming as well as what was going, he was placed in charge of gates and doors, transitions, and beginnings and endings. Being two faced also meant he could talk out of two mouths at the same time. Kinda like Toyota.

Toyota spends millions of dollars touting themselves as the automotive equivalent of the Sierra Club. They’re out to save the planet with their Hybrid Synergy Drive and put OPEC sheiks on the public dole with their fuel sipping econoboxes. They’re so magnanimous they’re sharing their hybrid technology with Ford and Nissan (and anyone else willing to pay the price).

Toyota’s even bragging that their new manufacturing plants will produce no waste to clog the landfills. Yes, the birds are singing in the trees and daisies are blooming in the meadows thanks to Toyota. And then there’s the Tundra.

Toyota makes no bones about it: they want to be a major player in America’s lucrative full-size pickup market. After years of twiddling their toes in the water with a size 30-slim Tundra, they finally cowboyed-up and built them a gen-u-ine giant. The new Toyota Tundra is every bit as gi-normous and gluttonous as the Dodge Rams, Chevrolet Silverados and Ford F150's it faces.

And they’re promoting it heavily. Over three-quarters of Toyota's NAIAS stand was dedicated to the Tundra. The display featured the he-man image the Japanese automaker wants to associate with their mega machine. And you can bet the Tundra’s advertising budget will be equal to or greater than that of their tree-hugger specials. Combined.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s playing footsie with federal regulations. Their Texas-built pickup hits dealer showrooms in February– at the same time other manufacturers are beginning to introduce some of their 2008 models. But Toyota is adamant the new Tundra is an ’07. That’s because the U.S. government is changing the way they calculate the fuel mileage ratings for ‘08 model year pickups.

The new procedures will make the numbers on the window sticker more realistic (i.e. lower). ToMoCo can’t risk lower numbers against competition’s higher-rated ’07 models. They’ll get to display the higher numbers for a few months before the (unchanged) ’08 models go on sale this fall with ratings 8 to 12 percent lower than the ‘07s.

As you can imagine, Toyota’s heavy emphasis on their new gas-guzzling leviathan hasn’t gone unnoticed by auto-oriented environmentalists. In fact, environmental groups are finally facing reality: their automotive eco-darling is (gasp!) nothing more than a business. A business that conforms to all CAFE regulations, of course, but will do whatever it takes to make a profit.

Some environmentalists are none-too-pleased to discover Toyota’s enviro-friendly posture was based more on marketing and profits than saving the planet. The greenies are indignant, and they're striking back.

Backed by groups like the Rainforest Action Network, The Freedom From Oil Campaign (FFOC) has put Toyota on notice: no more “free pass.” According to an FFOC statement, the group's launching a new campaign designed to ensure that “auto makers are taking the interim steps needed to show that they are truly committed to fuel economy and not just good PR.”

While commending Toyota for its past record for fuel economy, they’ve added the transplant to their list of targets. It may not be long before the FFOC organizes pickets outside Toyota dealerships, as they’ve done at Ford dealerships. The Toyota Tundra could become the tree-hugger's next lightning rod, replacing the (so-ten-minutes-ago) Hummer H2.

You have to wonder why it took environmentalists this long to see the light (heavy?). Toyota’s trucks have never been what you’d call “parsimonious” with petrol. The automotive press has consistently panned their two hybrid SUVs for their disappointing real world fuel economy. Once the 2008 testing procedures are in place, it’ll be interesting to see where Toyota falls on the charts and how the more realistic numbers will affect opinions of their greenmobiles.

As a company that exploits its environmental responsibility, Toyota can't be pleased to find the eco-radicals on their case. The company will have to spin like a whirling dervish to handle the fallout. I’m confident, though, that they’ll pull out all the stops to protect their green rep. I can see it now: “Clean air for oxygen breathers courtesy of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive and carbon dioxide for plant life by the Toyota Tundra. We have the ecosystem covered!” Janus would be smiling– on both sides of his head.

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  • Tacoboy96 Tacoboy96 on Jan 23, 2007

    I took a look at the many pictures of this truck and judging it based off of my dad's own 2002 Tundra, the truck is garbage. It gets something like 14MPG when Chevrolet's new Silverado is pushing 20MPG. That is a significant difference that will hurt their sales. After seeing a new Silverado a few weeks ago, I can honestly say that at this point,GM builds a better truck, and that's coming from a long time toyota owner.

  • Engineer Engineer on Jan 23, 2007

    Bottom line: Toyota is an efficient business who cares primarily about making money. With the new large Tundra, Toyota now covers the entire spectrum, from large trucks to small cars. This effectively means gas prices cannot hurt Toyota: gas prices go up - Prius/Yaris sales figures go through the roof. Gas prices go down - Tundra sales figures look good! Why cede the large truck market segment (with all those big profits to D2.5)? With a full line-up Toyota will obviously need to play different tunes for different buyers. "I want my M.P.G." for Prius/Yaris market. "I want my M.P.V." for the truck buyers. It's called marketing. Expecting Toyota to spend their own money to save the planet is like expecting MacDonalds to sell health food at a loss!

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.