Toyota as a case study in complexity. Is prius just a greenwash halo?

Great piece today at movementdesign’s re*move blog about Toyota. It tells us a lot about bright green, and the danger of kneejerk reactions. There are plenty of lessons for any industry there.

Right now there’s a petition going on in the States, calling for Toyota to support a proposed bill requiring ‘CAFE’ fleet average ‘gas mileage’ for cars and small trucks, to rise to 35mpg by 2020.  Toyota is doing its green image absolutely no good by trying to derail this bill, and supporting an alternative, which calls for the average to rise to 32mpg. Could it be that the self-styled green giant Toyota, is not as green as it likes everyone to think it is?

It seems its all about the trucks, with Prius as nothing more than window dressing.

Sadly, like everyone else auto-wise when it comes to the United States market, Toyota is actually rather keen on truck sales – specifically its big Tundra truck – which it recently launched a new version of. While Ford and GM have been taken to the cleaners by greens and press alike over their poor gas mileage, and reliance on selling inefficient trucks and their lack of hybrids, Toyota has sailed merrily on, positioning itself as the big green giant, basking in the halo effect of the Prius.

Joe though avoids knee-jerk conclusions. Its not either, or.

So although this fuel economy episode is unlikely to do Toyota’s green image much good – and although it indeed seems rather hypocritical of them to oppose the tougher gas-mileage bill, I wouldn’t kick Toyota too hard. They are ahead of the game – in terms of alternative power plants, advanced research and future mobility ideas. Just because they oppose the regulations now, doesn’t mean they won’t hit, or even exceed the legislation come 2020.

Toyota is of course undoubtedly a leader in green automotive technology, and green automotive sales, but we have to remember the company’s job is to sell as many vehicles as possible. Until it becomes deeply embarrassing to drive one of those huge trucks in environments where they aren’t absolutely necessary people will keep buying them. Toyota it seems to me is a company we should be encouraging to do better. But then signing the petition is perhaps a way to do just that.

Somehow I can’t see a computer company lobbying to reduce energy consumption targets on servers, but stranger things have happened. Environmental leadership is complex and only going to get more so.