Toyota Tainted

Last fall, Toyota took an action that puts them squarely on the side of polluters in the battle for cleaner air. Back in October, Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and others filed a lawsuit defending California’s vehicle emissions standards against an attack by the Trump administration – a case where Toyota might be expected to stand firmly on the side of defending California’s standards. Instead, Toyota sold us out, joining the defendant in attacking our state’s standards.

Toyota talks a pretty good talk when it comes to the environment. Just check out their goals in Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, the first of which is “Reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 90 percent from 2010 levels.” And you could say they’ve walked the walk too, with the iconic Prius – the first mass-produced hybrid-electric car, which pioneered mass electrification of passenger cars. 

But at the end of the day, the company has traded clean-air for favor with the Trump administration.

Why focus on Toyota?

Other carmakers besides Toyota took the defendant’s side in EDF’s lawsuit. So why single out Toyota? Because they, in particular, are demonstrating hypocrisy, given their facade of sustainability. And with 14.58% of the U.S. market in the first quarter of this year, they trail only GM and Ford. In addition, Toyota actually had a hand in crafting the California emissions standards!

We must fight Toyota’s stance, tooth and nail. There’s so much at stake – clean air in our lungs, a livable planet.

Assaulting California’s auto emissions standards

The Trump administration attack had come in September 2019, in the form of a rule “blocking California – or any other state – from setting its own standards for fuel economy or greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles”. It was well known that the administration was hell-bent from day one on favoring oil industry profits over clean air. (Just check out this timeline.) In anticipation of an attack, in July 2019, four major automakers reached an agreement with California to voluntarily adhere to its stricter emissions standards, regardless of what steps the federal government took. You’d think Toyota would have been among them, but you’d be wrong. The four companies that chose to protect our planet and our health were Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW.

Origin of California’s special status

California has had the right to set its own, stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles than the federal government’s, dating back to the 1967 Air Quality Act. That’s because California already had emissions standards in place by that time to address dire pollution in Los Angeles. The 1970 Clean Air Act honored that by allowing California to continue to write its own rules – subject to applying for and being granted a waiver by the EPA.

California is treated uniquely in this, due to its particularly severe motor vehicle-related air quality issues. However, under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, any state can choose to follow California’s standards. Significantly, 13 states and the District of Columbia do so choose. Known as the “Section 177″ states, they are primarily in the northeast of the country. 

Importance of California’s special status

As goes California, so goes the rest of the country. That’s because it’s uneconomical for automakers to manufacture cars to two different emissions specifications – one for the 14 states using the California standard and another for the rest of the U.S. using the EPA standard. This makes California’s special status extremely significant in terms of controlling climate pollution and protecting the air that we breathe.

California’s standards have directly resulted in the development of major technological advances to clean vehicle emissions. As a result, in terms of smog-forming pollution, the average new car sold in California – and nationwide – is more than 99 percent cleaner than a car from the 1970s.

 “It’s hard to overstate how important the ability for California to set its standards has been to public health and clean air over the past 40 years,” says Don Anair, deputy director for the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. And in a 2017 article, Wired Magazine’s Alex Davies called the California exemption “one of the most powerful environmental tools in the world.”

Assaulting Federal auto emissions standards

On March 31st, the Trump administration launched a second major assault on auto-emissions standards. In one of the biggest steps the administration has taken to reverse an existing environmental policy, it rolled back federal fuel economy standards established in 2012, under which new vehicle fleets would reach an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead, that federal goal is now lowered to about 40 miles per gallon. 

This latest attack makes it even more important that we retain our state’s ambitious goals! Let’s leverage COVID-19 downtime to take action.

Hit them where it hurts

The best way to apply pressure is by affecting sales. Dealerships act as critical ‘middlemen’ for the auto industry. In late February, SD350 joined forces with Activist San Diego at a protest at a local Toyota dealership – the Larry H. Miller Toyota dealership in Lemon Grove. This was part of Activist San Diego’s Toyota Loves Trump campaign – a campaign to pressure Toyota to drop its support of the administration in the EDF lawsuit. But with most of us currently sequestered at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, we must take action now through calls, emails, letters, etc. 

What you can do

Please tell Toyota that their behavior is unacceptable by contacting them in any of the following ways: 

  1. Call one or more of the 11 San Diego Toyota dealerships.
  2. Submit a comment to Toyota corporate at Email Toyota (Choose Advertising/Marketing as the Topic on the left side.)
  3. Write to Toyota headquarters:
    Mr. Tetsuo Ogawa, CEO
    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
    P.O. Box 259001
    Plano, TX 75025-9001

Here’s a sample of what you can say:

I’m a resident of XXX, California and am writing/calling to express my outrage at Toyota’s support of the Trump administration in striking down California’s right to have stricter auto-emissions standards than the EPA’s. 

I will not consider buying a Toyota [again] until Toyota Corporation does the following, and I will encourage my family and friends to do likewise:

  1. Drop support of the Trump administration in the lawsuit brought by EDF et al in October 2019.
  2. Publicly support California’s right to have stronger auto emissions standards than the EPA’s.

Our individual actions can add up to make a big difference in protecting our state’s auto emissions standards. Thanks in advance for your action on this issue!

About angelaD

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Angela has lived in San Diego since 1999 and works in Geographical Information Systems in the water industry. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening with native plants and Irish ceili dancing. She has been involved with SanDiego350 since it formed in late 2011.

Comments

  1. Tim W. Brittain says

    This is an excellent article by Angela. She always has the highest standards of reportage and research and continues to be a light for our community, state, and country. Thanks, Angela, for keeping an eagle eye out for us: We need to know who’s REALLY going backward and dropping the globe.

    • Angela Deegan says

      Thank you for the kind words, Tim. I just hope the article spus people to take action

  2. I just emailed them and also told them that I’ve only had Toyotas since 1985.

  3. I admire your very important activism Angela.
    A proud fellow Drumcondra resident.
    Annette Forde

    • DEEGAN, ANGELA says

      Thanks so much, Annette! I encourage everyone to be an activist. Anyone can start at any time at any level of involvement. I’ve only become active in the past 14 years or so – particularly so in the past 8 years, with SD350. There’s so much work to be done. We need everybody!

  4. Jeanne Peterson says

    Wow, Angela, as I was reading this article, I felt as though I was reading the New York Times. You give a timeline you give historical context and it’s a very well-researched article as well. I especially liked that you made it so easy to get 2 taking action by putting in all the links necessary and also supplying talking points. Excellent!!

  5. Patricia Murphy says

    Spot on Angela! You succinctly addressed the issue . Thank you for your advocacy and engagement. That Toyota has chosen to stand with the Trump administration is a huge disappointment. It is important to get the word out. I admire your dedication in advocating clean air standards and for shining a light in Toyota. Will pass the information on as I believe it should be shared widely. Thank you!

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