Tokyo Notes

Toyota PR Hits Iran

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Tokyo Notes

Toyota PR Hits Iran

Toyota’s decision to suspend exports of its cars to Iran is a curious one.

Toyota’s decision to suspend exports to Iran, even though its vehicles are not covered by any sanctions against the country, is a curious one.

Surely huge corporations like Toyota should keep their focus on doing business and leave their respective governments to make political decisions about whether to halt car exports to nations with controversial nuclear programs. You would think Toyota has more pressing concerns to deal with, such as getting to the bottom of safety issues that have implicated its cars in more deaths so far than can be attributed to Iran’s nuclear program.

Or is that the whole point? Is this a PR exercise to improve the company’s tarnished image in the United States, which is leading moves against Tehran’s N-program?

According to a Kyodo News report, Toyota officials said Wednesday that they ‘especially feared that the continuation of car sales to Iran could hurt its business in the US market.’

This can’t be at the level of private consumers, since surely more of them will be concerned about whether the brakes and accelerator pedals of a Toyota work than the company’s export policy to Iran.

So the company is presumably trying to boost its corporate image with the US government, which is continuing to investigate the safety-related problems that have led the company to recall up to ten million vehicles worldwide. While some officials in Washington might welcome the move, it’s far from clear what negative impact a handful of car sales to Iran would have had on its business in the United States, as long as the company was not ignoring or bypassing sanctions.

Toyota may well claim it has had unfair press. Its recalls have made front page news unlike the recalls of its rivals, while the latest reports by US safety regulators suggest driver error was a factor in 35 out of 58 cases of unintended acceleration blamed on Toyota vehicles.

All the same, the decision as to whether a family in Shiraz should be able to buy a new Toyota or not because of the actions of the Ahmadinejad administration, should remain with the Japanese government or the United Nations.