Toyota is Siding with Trump – I’m Just One of Many Angry Prius Owners

November 20, 2019 | 10:36 am
A blue 2020 Toyota Prius on a back roadToyota Newsroom
Jonna Hamilton
Director of Policy, Clean Transportation Program

Dear Fellow Prius Drivers –

Were you as mad at Toyota as I was when you learned that they are actively undermining the Clean Air Act by siding with the Trump administration as they attack state authority and undermine emissions standards?  If so, you are not alone.

I bought my Prius 10 years ago because I wanted to do the right thing.  I wanted to reduce my own carbon footprint, to use less oil, and be a better citizen of this planet we all share.  The serious savings at the pump is a definite added value but wasn’t the main motivation behind my purchase.

If any of the above resonates with you, then you should be as angry at Toyota as I am.  Or you will be by the time you’re done with this blog. (And then you should check out twitter to see the responsesBobby Berk from Queer Eye is all over this and there are lots of folks threatening to not buy another Toyota)

Toyota has spent a lot of time and effort over the last couple of decades positioning themselves as the “green” automaker.  The Prius was one of the first mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids for sale in the US and it is a great car.  It has also sold pretty well for Toyota and has had the added side benefit of making everyone think that Toyota is an environmentally-conscious company.  But the data don’t fully support that idea.

Over the past 8 years, while the standards that ensure you get more miles per gallon and emit less carbon pollution have been in effect, all manufacturers have improved their fleets, except Toyota (see chart below – Toyota is the only company whose fleet moved backwards).  Their pick-up trucks are less efficient than most of their competitors  and they are far behind the industry leaders when it comes to electrification – their plug-in Prius can go a mere 25 miles on a charge before turning over to the admittedly efficient gasoline engine, and they offer a low-volume fuel cell vehicle only in California.  They aren’t currently selling any other EVs across the US.

This chart shows increases in fuel economy and decreases in CO2 emissions for each manufacturer since 2012. Every manufacturer except Toyota has sold a fleet of cars and trucks that move in the right direction. Even so, Toyota still has better fuel economy and lower emissions than any of the Big 3.

And now, Toyota has decided to go all in with the Trump administration – joining litigation on the administration’s side – that would negate the long-standing authority that California has had to regulate tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act (and the ability for other states to adopt these standards – this impacts 14 states and Washington, DC).  This is a direct attack both on the Clean Air Act, which has been critically important in, you know, saving people’s lives by reducing air pollution, and also the efficiency and emissions standards that drives companies to make more efficient cars and trucks.

Toyota is not the only company to have joined with the administration, of course.  They’re just the biggest hypocrites of the bunch. (I will be honest, this isn’t the first time we’ve noticed their hypocrisy – does anyone else remember the crying ice statue commercial from the last winter Olympics)?  The other companies who have taken the same position are: GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru.

Are there companies doing the right thing?

Yes, yes there are.  In July, four automakers did the right thing – Ford, Honda, VW, and BMW made a deal with California and committed to both making their cars and trucks significantly more efficient over time while upholding the state’s unique authority and leadership on vehicle emissions, putting themselves squarely in opposition to the Trump administration’s attack on California and its gutting of vehicle efficiency standards.

These are the companies that deserve some kudos now, while the rest of the industry throws in with the Trump administration in undermining our ability to meet our climate goals, exacerbates health issues, and ensures that people put more money in the pockets of the oil companies.

The auto industry is at a pivotal point in history and each automaker needs to make a choice – either they are leaders in deploying the vehicle solutions demanded by a warming world, or they are choosing to side with fossil fuel interests and stall progress. Toyota has made clear where they stand today by joining Trump in attacking California standards.

Toyota can no longer hide behind the Prius and the green image they’ve established long ago. I hope Toyota recognizes the damage they’ve done, backs away from the lawsuit, and joins with California and the four other automakers who have chosen a different path.

If you want to make sure Toyota knows how you feel – you can sign this petition.  You can also take to twitter like so many others have and demand that they change their ways.  I do believe that anything you do publicly will make a difference to such an image-conscious company