Toyota's Jekyll and Hyde routine

Toyota’s green image took another shot today when the Union of Concerned Scientists blasted the company in a press release for opposing a Senate energy bill that would boost federal fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Doh! This isn’t the first time a green group has taken Toyota to task for its duality when it comes to clean air and fuel economy. But it underscores that the surging Japanese auto giant is having a tough time balancing its headlong push for growth into every corner of the auto business with the green image that it has so carefully cultivated.

UCS took a shot at Toyota for claiming that it can’t meet the proposed regulations and for joining Detroit’s Big Three in opposing the enrgy bill. It’s tough for Toyota to play the green card when the company grew its Lexus brand chiefly by selling more suvs and it is trying to get a foothold in the Detroit-dominated big-pickup business.

This proves a point that, while Toyota is a great auto maker and has some of the best technology in the business, its corporate strategists are not the altruists that some of its green advertising would have the public believe. They want to grow sales and make billions just like any other company. That means selling gas hogs alongside Priuses and little Scions. In the eyes of the environmentalists who helped burnish Toyota’s brand since the Prius hit the U.S. market in 1999, being green Toyota and mighty Toyota is looking more and more like a Jekyll and Hyde routine.

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