News of May 30, 2001
Toyota Addresses Misinformation Regarding Advertising Controversy
TORRANCE, Calif. - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA, Inc. issued the following background regarding rumors and misinformation surrounding controversy about certain advertising, as well as the company's diversity policies in general.
This issue pertains to a promotional postcard available for free in racks located in nightspots, fitness centers, coffee houses and other locations frequented by the young and style-conscious.
The postcard, which featured a smiling African American man with "tooth art" in the shape of a RAV4 SUV, was intended to communicate RAV4's styling to a youthful hip audience through an emerging style statement similar to tattoos and "body jewelry."
Toyota recognized that the item was inappropriate and voluntarily cancelled the campaign before it received any outside objections. The company has issued a public apology to anyone who found the photograph offensive. The image is of an African American male with a warm and friendly smile. Internet postings, emailed images and descriptions have reproduced or portrayed it as distorted or with incorrect color and contrast. The actual printed image carried no text, was naturally rendered and was not a caricature.
Some discussion of this issue has referred to a 1998 print ad for Corolla that highlighted the car's legendary reliability. Intended for general magazine media, it played upon classic conflicts in young male/female relationships. The ad featured a picture of the Corolla and does not depict an African American couple or any people, as has been reported.
The ad copy stated: "Unlike your last boyfriend, it goes to work in the morning. The '99 Corolla. 31 years of being dependable, reliable and more durable than most relationships. Imagine. A lasting commitment without ever arguing over the remote control. Too bad Toyota doesn't make boyfriends."
Playing on age-old humor, it was intended to connect with readers of female-oriented publications such as Teen, Mademoiselle, Glamour and People Weekly. Due to a clerical error in the agency's traffic department, it was mistakenly issued for insertion in Jet Magazine, an African-American publication. At that time, the publisher of Jet shared responsibility for the error and with Toyota, printed a joint apology to Jet's readers.
This ad occurred more than two years ago, and its headline is not contained in the RAV4 promotional postcard image.
References have been made to a television commercial depicting a Kenyan marathon runner being tracked by an off-road vehicle. This commercial was for an athletic shoe retailer and is in no way connected to Toyota, nor does it contain a Toyota vehicle.
Toyota Motor Sales, and its manufacturing partner, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, North America have long-standing and active supplier diversity outreach programs. Toyota's operations are well on target to reach five percent purchases from minority suppliers by next year, which matches commitments by other major American corporations and automakers.
The percentage of minority-owned Toyota and Lexus dealerships has grown 38 percent since 1998, one of the fastest growth rates of any major automaker, and compares very favorably with the rest of the industry. Of the last five brand-new Lexus dealerships opened, all are owned by independent African American businesspeople.
Established in 1957, TMS USA is a California Corporation, employing more than 6200 Americans nationwide. One third of TMS associates are people of color, one third are women and one out of five in management are minorities or women.
(May 25, 2001)