Toyota has a reputation among U.S. car buyers for being green and offering fuel-efficient vehicles.
But a recent post on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog painted a different picture.
Noting that Toyota was suing to stop the implementation of fuel-economy rules in Mexico that duplicate levels contained in U.S. legislation that Toyota supports.
In the language of horror and contempt--variations of "stunning" were used three times--author Rich Kassel wrote that Toyota had "never spoken publicly about any concerns whatsoever with the Mexican fuel economy proposal."
So we contacted Toyota.
And in fact, spokeswoman Ana Vallarino of Toyota de Mexico was quite happy to explain the company's side of the matter.
First came the usual round of corporate happy talk.
Toyota of Mexico is fully committed to the environmental cause, she said, and it supports the government's coal of long-term reduction of vehicular carbon dioxide.
The company wants to work with the government in a cooperative and supportive manner that needs the needs of all stakeholders, including its customers, the country's automakers, and the government itself, she continued.
Then we got down to the nub of the matter.
It's hardly just Toyota; almost every automaker in Mexico has come out against the standards, Vallarino said.
Automakers are working together through the trade association Associacion Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz (AMIA), but must file individual lawsuits.
The issue is not so much the adoption of U.S. standards per se but, first, the government's imposition of standard without required consultation and, second, its omission of incentives contained in the U.S. legislation.
You can think of these them as the carrots that go along with the stick of higher fuel-economy requirements.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid window sticker showing EPA fuel efficiency ratings
Incentives both provide credits that manufacturers can earn to increase their overall corporate average fuel economy rating, including:
- switching to lower-carbon air-conditioning coolant
- building "flex-fuel" vehicles that can run on more than just gasoline
and programs that provide government backed financial incentives to encourage consumers to buy more efficient vehicles. Those might be similar to U.S. programs that give tax credits for hybrids (now ended) and for plug-in vehicles.
According to Vallarino, Toyota's lawsuit (the first of several filed by automakers) was only to suspend the rules while AMIA attempts to engage the Mexican government in discussion with automakers over their details.
While Toyota sells a number of the same vehicles in Mexico that it does in the U.S.--including its Prius hybrid--it also offers models like the Avanza subcompact crossover, Hi-Ace small minivan, and Hi-Lux pickup that aren't available north of the border.
We can't predict how this will turn out, and whether Mexico's automakers will be able to engage the government and reach consensus on the details of new regulations.
It does go to show, though, that there are customarily two sides to every battle.
And that, in general, each side will usually explain its reasons if you ask.