It’s definitely the sort of global, consumer-driven endorsement that companies would rather do without. Toyota HiLux trucks have emerged as a near constant fixture in ISIS videos, from convoys of HiLuxes kitted out with heavy weapons or terrorists jumping from the trucks to commence brutal executions. To compound the company’s embarrassment, the US government recently asked Toyota to explain how ISIS acquired the vehicles.
This sort of adverse association isn’t new for Toyota. An interesting 2010 Newsweek article points out that HiLuxes have been favoured for decades by militants from the Middle East, Africa and Central America. The article, via counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, summarises the vehicle’s appeal: longevity, high ground clearance, an ability to cover ground well and people mover capacity.
You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Toyota. In this instance its brand has suffered solely for living up to one of Toyota’s enduring and defining brand promises: quality. Toyota is drawing negative publicity precisely because the HiLux is functioning the way it was intended. The HiLux’s reliability in arduous conditions and its ability to handle heavy haulage has simply appealed to ISIS just as much as it appeals to tradies around Australia.
In response to the US government’s inquiry, a Toyota representative said all that could be really said – including it has a strict policy not to sell to people who may use them for terrorist activities.
Essentially, Toyota will just have to ride this one out. It would hope consumers are intelligent enough to recognise the situation is beyond its control. It will also need to continue to be seen doing what it can to protect the integrity of its sales deals and supply chain, despite the reality that it’s impossible to stop HiLuxes ultimately reaching people who want them.
This “endorsement” does get you thinking, however, how the owners of Harley Davidson felt when bikie gangs started embracing their brand!