Toyota sales at threat in Afghanistan
Brad Kershaw – Kabul
Toyota’s troubles with recalls are undermining confidence in their products worldwide. Millions of cars have been recalled due to defective floormats, and accelerator pedals. As well as their luxury vehicles and popular family cars, Toyoto have a good pedigree in four wheel drive vehicles – and the Taliban can attest to their reliability under fire.
Despite the Taliban’s antipathy to technology, hanging television sets, smashing computers, and shredding video tape, their puritan beliefs did not extend to motor vehicles. While higher level Al Qaeda and Taliban preferred Land Cruisers, the ubiquitous Toyota Hilux became a firm favourite in the harsh Afghan environment. Wade Hoyt, Toyota’s spokesman in New York,said “It is not our proudest product placement,” he said. “But it shows that the Taliban are looking for the same qualities as any truck buyer: durability and reliability.”
The Taliban favour such vehicles because they are comfortable, air-conditioned and reliable, have large fuel tanks, and are good for carrying large numbers of people and weapons. One Taliban spokesman explained, “In our heyday,the pickups provided ideal platforms for intimidation and enforcement. We used to have great fun leaping down and beating women for showing a glimpse of ankle or to locking a man in a shipping container for three weeks until his beard grew to the approved length. They also fit down the players’ tunnel at the soccer stadium when we had to take an accused adulterer for execution. They also had these really neat cupholders.”
But the romance is over. The brake pedal issue has become a real concern for the Taliban, “How can you go on a martyrdom operation with any confidence, when at any moment you might career off the edge of a mountain road, or plough into a wall? I got really bad whiplash last week just dropping off some rocket propelled grenades! It’s cost me a fortune in osteopath consultations. I might well sue.”
Longer-term policy changes are also under threat, due to the mass recall of the Prius hybrid. A senior Taliban representative explained. “We are trying to improve our reputation. It’s a real struggle. In recent years we have been working with partners who have engaged with Amnesty International to highlight our concern with human rights and the rights of women to live in a safe controlled environment. It can be hard to present yourself in a media friendly manner, but we feel we have made some real progress. Another area that we thought we could improve on is our environmental reputation, we think the Greens would be willing to listen to our message. We are a low carbon organisation, something I don’t think we get enough credit for in the media. We did hope to start switching to low emission hybrids soon and the Prius was an obvious choice. Now, with the Toyota recall, we are having to revisit out entire strategy. Donkeys and bicycles are back on the table.”