Toyota joins GM as a classic bandwagon jumper

Toyota Motors manufactures a sport utility vehicle called “4Runner”. But the company, like its rival General Motors, could best be called a classic leader.

Another term for this might be “bandwagon jumper”.

In 2017, when then-President Donald Trump began trying to remove California’s ability to set its own smog standards — granted in the federal air quality law signed by the Republican president Richard Nixon in 1970 – General Motors and Toyota supported his efforts with a later lawsuit. followed by attorneys general in 17 Republican-controlled states.

Both companies were fed up with California forcing them to develop innovations, from the first smog-control devices to catalytic converters to hybrid cars and electric vehicles.

But some of their competitors hesitated. Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo have all joined a lawsuit filed by the former state attorney. General Xavier Becerra who delayed Trump’s efforts long enough for him to lose the 2020 election, despite his stubborn false claims to have won.

Now the federal threat to California’s smog control authority is gone, at least for a few years, with President Biden reversing efforts by the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency to thwart the shift to cars and electric trucks and thwart this state’s efforts to clean up its air, while moving away from fossil fuels.

One of the results of this election was a complete reversal by GM. That company’s chief executive, Mary Barra, changed her tune almost the instant Biden was inaugurated.

Rather than resist California authority, Barra removed GM from its role supporting Trump in early 2021, saying she agreed with Biden’s plan to make electric vehicles more widespread and more popular.

“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of (Biden), California and General Motors are aligned,” she said. It would have been difficult to be more openly opportunistic.

Toyota has waited longer to become another example of corporate leapfrogging.

Just two days before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will use its restored authority under the Clean Air Act to order an end to sales of new gasoline cars and trucks in 2035, Toyota announced this year that he would no longer oppose it. As GM claims, this was a 180 degree position reversal.

Neither company has admitted that its earlier position was wrong or misguided. Neither claimed the Trump administration forced him into anything. But the two say they are now firmly on the EV side, pledging to produce many new totally zero-emission vehicles.

CARB President Lianne Randolph tweeted to welcome Toyota. “We are pleased to see that Toyota has now recognized California’s authority to set vehicle standards,” she said. “Although we have had differences in the past, we look forward to moving (electric vehicles) forward together on a positive basis.”

The automakers’ response to California’s new EV mandate is clearly a political bandwagon jumping at its most blatant. It also stands in stark contrast to past predictions of disaster by automakers whenever CARB sets new standards to be met.

GM is a classic example. When CARB earlier this century gave automakers 10 years to start selling zero-emission cars in significant quantities, GM said it was impossible. At the same time, its publicists were lending demo models of the company’s first primitive electric vehicle to automotive journalists across the country – a clear demonstration of two things: 1) The company’s right hand didn’t know or didn’t didn’t care what his left hand was doing. , and 2) electric vehicles could be built to be both roadworthy and capable.

It was much the same for Toyota: the company opposed any further step towards clean-air cars, deeming it impossible or too expensive. Nevertheless, it developed the hybrid Prius, which became the best-selling passenger car in California.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s latest statement overturned its long-held assertions that making cars ever cleaner might not be possible. The Japan-based company said it “continues to share CARB’s vision” of reducing greenhouse gases and building carbon-neutral vehicles. “We are excited about our efforts to expand zero-emissions activities beyond our core vehicle business.”

Make no mistake: had the 2020 election results been different, the California Clean Air Authority would surely have disappeared and neither GM nor Toyota would have changed their position.

This is something idealistic car buyers might want to consider when deciding which brand of new car to buy.

Email Thomas Elias at [email protected] His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a fourth edition hardcover. For more Elias columns visit

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