No, Toyota Is Not Supplying ISIS With Pickup Trucks
یکشنبه 17 آبان 10:11
Across the Middle East, the image has become a common one: white pickup trucks racing down stretches of lonely desert highway, streaming black flags of the Caliphate, filled with enthusiastic Islamic State fighters carrying AK-47s.
From the Maghreb Desert to the Euphrates River, white Toyota pickup trucks rule the battlefield.
The Internet has gone crazy with a particularly odd conspiracy theory: somehow, Toyota has been supplying the fighters of the Islamic State with pickup trucks. Those making the claim, including the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, point out that the Toyota trucks ISIS fighters drive in Libya, Iraq, and Syria often appear brand-new.
Even the United States government has gotten involved—last week, ABC News reported the Terror Financing unit of the Treasury Department was leading an inquiry into how so many Toyota pickup trucks ended up in the hands of ISIS. Toyota said it was cooperating with the investigation.
Is Toyota somehow responsible for outfitting ISIS with pickup trucks? No, of course it's not. A combination of Japanese consumer tastes, a lucrative worldwide used car market, thermodynamics, and sheer manufacturing output pretty much guarantees any organization that subsists off found, "liberated," and captured goods will standardize on white pickup trucks. The region has plenty of white pickup trucks for ISIS to acquire without ordering them new and direct from Japan.
Japan's auto industry is a key part of the national economy, and in times of weak car sales the government offers generous payouts to get people to buy new cars. In 2009 for example, it promised $2,500 in cash incentives to anyone trading in cars and trucks more than 13 years old. It also offered $1,000 in incentives to trade up to vehicles that met stricter emissions standards.
These older cars often look nearly new, reflecting a tendency by the Japanese to take exceptionally good care of their cars. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a market for used cars in Japan.
All of this results in a huge glut of used—often white (the most popular car color in Japan) —cars and trucks. These vehicles are sold abroad: in 2004, the Wall Street Journal estimated Japan's exported nearly a million used vehicles.
So it stands to reason that a certain amount of these cars reach the Middle East. White and other light colors are favored in the Middle East due to the fact they reflect heat better, stay cooler, and don't grow unpleasant parked in the sun. Black is fine for the color of the Caliphate flag, but nobody in his right mind is going to drive a black pickup truck in Iraq in August.
What's more, an examination of images Islamic State Toyota Hilux trucks (comparable to the Toyota Tacoma) reveals many of them appear fifteen to thirty years old—hardly cars that are fresh off the manufacturing line.
All of this, of course, reflects only used trucks. Toyota has been the world's largest auto maker for four of the last five years, only failing to take the top spot in 2011 because of that year's earthquake and tsunami disaster. According to the web site DoDBuzz, Toyota sold 683,900 vehicles in the Middle East in 2012. More pertinently, as the ABC News report says, Toyota sold 31,000 Hiluxes and Land Cruisers in Iraq between 2013 and 2014.
Enter ISIS. The Islamic State is a terrorist group that scavenges everything from weapons to transportation—confiscating, stealing, and "liberating" anything useful it can find. As a light utility vehicle capable of carrying anything from half a dozen fighters to an anti-tank missile launcher, it favors pickup trucks. And naturally, a large number of them are going to be white. Do the math, and statistics state that the majority of those stolen and scavenged pickup trucks are going to be Toyotas—and white.
Another likely reason why ISIS drives Toyota pickup trucks: their legendary reputation for reliability, a key consideration when fighting across hundreds of miles of sparsely-populated terrain, and when fighting with military force where auto mechanics don't appear often on your organization chart.
All of this is to show that any sort of dark alliance between Toyota and the Islamic State is completely specious. The Toyota happens to be the vehicle with the greatest utility; the color of the pickup truck is driven by Asian tastes and the fact that desert heat dictates that white cars are simply more comfortable than black ones; and that Toyota trucks are driven by ISIS is dictated more by the sheer numbers produced and a reputation for quality than some nefarious plot by a well-respected Japanese automaker to supply a terroristic organization.
Simply put: It's practically guaranteed that any paramilitary force in the Middle East will standardize on white Toyota pickup trucks.
The Toyota/ISIS conspiracy might be a harmless, silly rumor were jobs not at stake. Any association with a group that burns people alive and chops off heads is not conducive to good business. Through no fault of its own, Toyota's good reputation is taking a beating. The irony is, despite all the damage ISIS has done throughout the Middle East, it's ill-informed reports from the West that are causing the damage this time.