Toyota’s still “Green” despite the new Tundra

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Toyota is known the world over as one of the most progressive and environmentally friendly corporations around — one need look no further than Toyota’s commanding share of the US hybrid market for proof. However, some entities are critical of Toyota because they are debuting the largest, most powerful Toyota Tundra ever. The new 5.7L V8, in addition to being one liter larger than the engine it replaces, is expected to sell better than the previous model. According to some of these protesters, Toyota has taken a “step backwards” by building and selling this monster-sized truck and the huge engine in it, and they should be chastised.

Recently Freedom From Oil, an activist group that is focused on a “pollution-free, petroleum-free” vehicle, put up a banner protesting the new Tundra during the New York Auto Show. While I whole-heartedly agree that the world would be a better place if it were pollution and petroleum free (assuming of course that means a workable alternative), I think that Freedom From Oil is missing the boat here.

For starters, truck sales are a zero-sum game. Most industry experts agree the size of the large truck segment in the US is going to stay the same or shrink, meaning that fewer new large trucks will be sold this year than in the previous year. If Toyota sells more new Tundras this year, it will be at the expense of Nissan, GM, Ford, and Chrysler. In fact we’ve already seen that happen this year with domestic truck sales falling as Toyota truck sales stay level.

The large size and the supposed poor efficiency of the new Tundra is also a non-issue. If you accept that the Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Nissan products are all roughly equivalent in terms of fuel economy and efficiency, a person choosing to buy a new Tundra is hurting the environment no worse than if they choose a new F150, Silverado, Ram, etc. Combine the similar efficiency of large trucks between manufacturers with the fact that any increase in Tundra sales will come from a competitor and it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt.

Reading through Freedom From Oil’s press release, it’s obvious to me that the real motive is to tarnish Toyota’s image with the green set. I doubt this will work. For one thing, recently released “green rankings” from the Union of Concerned Scientists state that Toyota is doing a good job protecting the environment. In this study of auto manufacturer’s and their relative environmental friendliness, Toyota finished just behind Honda for second place. The closest domestic truck manufacturer (and the leader in the large truck segment) was Ford, ranking 6th place overall. Based on these results, it would seem that someone choosing a Tundra over a F150 would be BETTER for the environment, not worse as Freedom From Oil would lead us to believe.

Freedom From Oil is a great concept, but these activists might be more effective if their protests actually made sense.

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