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!

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).