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Big Carmaker Knuckles Under to Big "Brother"

Pays Protection Money to Professional Thugs

by Jim Bray

It's a sad time for technology, consumers, and society in general.

In a scenario worthy of a mafia movie, Toyota has decided it no longer wants to be the best it can be - that it prefers paying protection money than using the merit system in its dealings.

The giant automaker has announced it's caving in to pressure from Jesse Jackson and his PUSHy rainbow coalition which had threatened to organize a boycott (shouldn't that be "youngpersoncott" in this politically correct age?) if Toyota didn't start catering to people based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their characters, the color of their money, the quantity and quality of their work ethic, the number of cars they can move, or the just-in-time deadlines they can meet.

Alas, Toyota has announced, according to a company press release, "a comprehensive rededication to diversity and inclusion that will generate more than $7.8 billion in sustainable minority economic impact by Toyota's North American companies over the next 10 years."

What this means to me is that the carmaker, which already claims to be "one of the most diverse in the auto industry," has promised to spend some eight billion dollars over the next decade hiring minority workers and companies and generally being more inclusive than back in the days before robots replaced the slaves Toyota kept chained to its assembly lines, cranking out Corollas as fast as they could.

In reality, the Reverend Jackson apparently got his knickers into a knot (at least he had them on!) over a Toyota promotion that used something called "tooth art." I didn't see the ad, but I've seen enough stupid and insulting ads over the years to not be surprised that someone didn't like it. After all, there are plenty of stupid and/or insulting ads and commercials making the rounds.

It appears that, because some advertising agency brain dreamed up this promotion and Toyota okayed it, and used it for a short time, the carmaker has found itself in the crosshairs of Jesse Jackson and his band of professional victims.

Guess the Reverend needed a way back into the limelight, what with all his recent "personal problems."

Toyota could have told the good Reverend to buzz off, but that would have undoubtedly meant bad publicity, being called "racist", and risked the couple of lost sales and goodwill that could result if Jackson and all of his followers made good on the boycott threat.

Of course, if Jackson's minions are really as downtrodden as he says they are they probably can't afford to buy a Toyota anyway and are probably across the street looking at Kias. After all, while Toyotas are rightly known for being outstandingly dependable, they are definitely not known for being the most affordable sets of wheels on the market today.

Good cars. I've sold them and owned them, though they've also been getting a tad boring of late.

But I digress…

Some of the measures Toyota is promising sound good, like financing schooling to ensure that the minorities it's now forced to hire are actually qualified (what a concept!), but some appear to be shotgun make-work designed to benefit minorities whether or not they meet the company's standards.

For example, the company's press release says "Toyota will increase spending with minority advertising firms 37 percent to $50 million per year and will retain a new African-American agency to join its two existing agencies by September 1, 2001." Toyota also says its U.S. operations "will be responsible for an annual total of $700 million in procurement from minority-owned suppliers."

I find it hard to believe a company as successful as Toyota would let skin color stand in the way of profitability, so I must presume that Toyota had previously felt these minority firms weren't up to the task, didn't have the correct creative vision, had a lousy sales force that never managed to close a deal with Toyota, or whatever.

So thanks to Jackson's protection racket Toyota, rather than being free to pursue excellence in its own way, will now pander to special interests and plow gigadollars into programs that, if nothing else, will undoubtedly raise the costs of their vehicles.

Yeah, more expensive Toyotas is just what we need. Thanks, Jesse.

Because you know who'll end up paying the bill.


Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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