Toyota makes more cars than any manufacturer in the world and without doubt their products are second to none.
But there’s one customer who they actually wouldn’t like in their showrooms if they had a choice, but choice doesn’t come into it.
The vehicle is the Toyota Land Cruiser and the customer is the Taliban who have just taken over the running of Afghanistan.
The Taliban have loved the solid and reliable Land Cruisers for the last 30 years and with them being so many of around they are the vehicle of choice of the terrorist groups – Al Qaeda and Isis.
As the Islamic militant group gained control in Afghanistan at an alarming rate Taliban fighters were seen in the same Toyota pickup trucks and SUVs that roam various countries across the rest of the world, in either cold or hot climates.
So when the Taliban seized the presidential palace in Kabul it marked the return to power of one of Toyota’s most loyal customers.
The love affair between the Taliban and Toyota goes back to the Islamist organisation’s beginnings in the early 1990s with fighters reportedly driving Toyota Hilux pickups into Kabul when they established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996.
But the use of Toyota vehicles precedes this Taliban love affair. The conflict between Chad and Libya from 1978 to 1987 was called The Toyota War due to the use of Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser pickups.
What can Toyota do about this serious PR problem when fighters armed to the teeth are driving now around the city in their beautiful product fitted with gun placements ready for combat or action or whatever.
Philip Patrick, who is a lecturer at a Tokyo university and a contributing writer at the Japan Times, also points out that Japan is far removed from the Great Satan image of America and its western allies.
“The country of origin may also be part of the attraction,” he said.
“Japan, with its pacifist constitution, has played a minimal role in the conflicts of the Middle East.”
Toyota has done its best to try and get away from these customers and supported a US investigation into the illegal trade in used vehicles by terrorist groups. Now anyone purchasing the 2022 model of the Land Cruiser needs to sign a contract promising not to resell it within a year.
It is unclear exactly how these groups acquired their fleets but theft from NGOs is probably the most likely with Toyota supplying 150,000 vehicles to the United Nations over the last 40 years.
Needless to say there is little criticism of Toyota in Japan because the company is part of the country, one of the largest employers and biggest spenders to boot. The so-called Taliban link won’t damage the domestic market and why should it?
Football hooligans love wearing Lacoste shirts or Burberry gear. Those manufacturers can’t be blamed.
And it was reported that the world’s worst terrorist Osama bin Laden was a supporter of Arsenal Football Club, although I don’t think he went to many of the home matches.
Most people looking for a new car will be choosing a Toyota because of its reliability rather than a twisted history for which they can do little. Toyota build superb cars with a great range with markets in more than 180 countries.