Via the LA Times' Top of the Ticket, it looks like Toyota has stepped on some noteworthy toes with a new TV ad:
Those ad writers for Toyota's Prius thought they had a pretty good concept for selling their car. And a hilarious punchline.
The new TV ads showed people driving their fuel-efficient cars with the funny name in a distant future where "gas stations will become nothing more than low-budget tourist stops. Like ghost towns ... or Fresno."
Now, anybody who's tried to buy gas in Fresno recently knows there's nothing low-budget about it. So Fresnoites were outraged. Mayor Alan Autry did what any self-respecting mayor would do. He passed the buck up the chain of elected bigwigs and wrote a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office.
We're glad to see Toyota promoting the Prius, but it strikes us as counter-productive to be insulting Fresno while a federal judge there is weighing a lawsuit, brought largely by a trade association that Toyota belongs to, against California's clean cars program...
And while the company's advertisers fumble that aspect of its image in California, the PR department still hasn't succeeded in squashing criticism over its involvement with that same lawsuit. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, when an environmental activist posed a direct question about the suit to a Toyota executive at the Los Angeles auto show, the response was rather emphatic:
When a man asked Carter why Toyota was suing California over carbon-dioxide emissions regulations, Carter noticed that the man's media badge identified him as Dave Schembri, head of Mercedes-Benz's Smart division. Carter knocked the video camera from the man's hands, and security guards separated the two.
The unidentified activist, who said he was with the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network, was escorted away by police. Toyota executives said they did not plan to press charges.
Not exactly the kind of press one should be aiming for, particularly while in the midst of introducing the 2008 Sequoia, a full-sized SUV. And proof positive that while Toyota deserves praise for pushing forward cleaner vehicles, however clumsily it might do so, the only way to truly "green" its image is to stop standing in the way of more progress.