Toyota Cries Over Climate Change While Their Trade Groups Cry Over Climate Policy

February 21, 2018 | 1:15 pm
Josh Goldman
Former Contributor

Don’t be fooled by this ad Toyota is running during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Set to images of ice sculpture athletes who are melting – crying even – because of climate change, the elegant voiceover states; “winter has given us beauty, hope, and heroes. Winter has given us joy and miracles. Winter has given us the magic of the Winter Games. It’s time we all did more to protect it. So, at Toyota, we are renewing our commitment to hybrid, electric, and hydrogen vehicles. To help keep our winters winter.”

Give me a break. What Toyota really should have these ice sculptures cry over is how much money Toyota gives to trade groups who are working to rollback or dismantle climate change policy.

Toyota makes some clean cars, but could do better

Let’s examine how, exactly, Toyota is renewing their commitment to “keep our winters winter.”

On the one hand, Toyota has been a leader in developing gas-electric hybrid technology, and the Prius has become one of the most – if not the most – high profile and best-selling fuel efficient vehicles. Toyota now also offers a plug-in version of the Prius, which boosts its environmental performance since vehicles with a plug tend to produce fewer emissions than vehicles without one. And Toyota has extended their hybrid technology to vehicles like the Camry, RAV4, and Highlander, which has helped people who need a bigger vehicle save money on fuel and cut their emissions.

On the other hand, the hybrid versions of the Highlander and RAV4 are not big sellers, and Toyota has largely failed to develop cleaner engines for their highest selling pickup trucks and SUVs. The Toyota Tundra and 4Runner, for example, are using the same engines they used nearly a decade ago, and each of those vehicles singlehandedly outsells the entire Prius family.

Toyota must stop combating climate change policy through their trade groups

If we are to “keep our winters winter,” ads featuring melting ice sculptures of Olympic athletes set to the gorgeously haunting music of Hildur Guðnadóttir probably won’t cut it.

Instead, federal and state policy must drive automakers to both improve fuel efficiency and produce more plug-in options – especially for SUVs and pickup trucks. And when it comes to these types of policies, Toyota – through their industry trade groups – has opposed efforts to improve fuel economy or promote electric vehicles at nearly every turn.

For example, the federal fuel efficiency standards were set to nearly double the efficiency of the average vehicle by 2025 and, as a result, achieve the largest reduction in global warming emissions from a single policy in the U.S. But, not less than a month after President Trump took office, the automaker trade groups who represent Toyota among others asked EPA Administrator Pruitt and President Trump to put the fuel efficiency standards on hold. Toyota’s trade groups have since continued to try and weaken the standards and have strongly supported a Senate bill that would do the same.

Today, Toyota and their trade groups are close to achieving their goal of rolling back the federal fuel efficiency standards that are designed to protect public health, save consumers money, and “keep our winters winter.” A leaked DOT analysis indicates the agency is considering several scenarios to weaken the standards, including one that essentially flatlines any required gains in fuel efficiency after 2020. If this comes to pass, the average vehicle MPG sticker will be less than 30, instead of 36, in 2025. This forecasted MPG gap would be bad for winters and consumers. The MPG difference would mean more than $4,000 in additional fuel costs over the lifetime of the average new vehicle.

So, what should Toyota do? As one of the world’s biggest automakers, they should use their market dominance to push their trade groups to better represent Toyota’s claimed interest in combating climate change and stop trying to dismantle federal fuel efficiency standards.

Toyota could also stop claiming that they are a socially responsible company working to reduce climate change emissions when they continue to be represented by trade groups who vigorously oppose some of the most important climate policies. Until Toyota becomes a vocal supporter of policy designed to tackle transportation-related emissions, they will continue to melt the ice.

Help UCS tell Toyota to make their actions speak as loud as their ad campaigns and put their engineers to work, not their lobbyists. Share this graphic and send it to Toyota via social media.