Those of you who live in London, Paris or Brussels last weekend or happened to drive through London, Paris or Brussels may have noticed some strange, vaguely disturbing Toyota and BMW billboards on your travels. Parody ads highlighting the dichotomy between automakersgreenwashedâ€ Environmental marketing and anti-climate lobbying have been popping up across Europe lately, according to Brandalism, one of the activist groups responsible. And they don’t hold back.
â€œLetâ€™s ruin everythingâ€ , reads a billboard presenting a new one Toyota RAV4 front and center amidst a cartoonish hellscape that would have looked perfectly at home in an episode of Happy tree friends or Miracle Showzen. Copy the mentions below Toyota in 10th place on a recent list of companies obstructing climate legislation.
Another ad contrasts that of the firm Beyond Zero battery-electric series with their continued lineup of gas-powered SUVs, while another still depicts a “land crusher” causing mayhem and running over pedestrians. Perhaps most striking is CEO Akio Toyoda’s photoshop, which has black goo dripping from his eyes and mouth.
At BMW, the focus is on the German manufacturer’s diesel emissions fraud. The car manufacturer claimed it “mistakenly” installed the wrong software with up to 11,000 vehicles in 2018, which allowed these cars to pollute many times the legal limit. It was eventually fined $9.6 million by German prosecutors and faced a class action lawsuit in New Jersey for the offence.
Brandalism, The Subvertisers’ International and Extinction Rebellion claim responsibility for the ads, which appeared around the time the Brussels Motor Show opened its doors last Friday. Tona Merriman, a proponent of brandalism, offered this commentary on the campaign in the Group announcement:
“Toyota and BMW use sophisticated marketing campaigns to promote oversized SUV models that are clogging urban neighborhoods. Electric SUVs are not a solution – they are too large for most parking spaces, and their large bumper size and excessive weight pose an increased risk to pedestrians, particularly children, involved in road collisions.”
If that sounds familiar, a similar sentiment has been voiced by the Tire Extinguishers – a loose, international collective of activists who deflate SUV tires in cities. In December this group claimed it immobilized 900 vehicles in one nightmainly in Europe and especially in London, but also in Brooklyn.
BMW and Toyota are far from the only manufacturers Selling SUVs as a universal replacement for carsbut the ad-spoofing campaign sheds light on Toyota’s particularly blatant lobbying efforts doubles to no-saying battery EVs. The Japanese automaker ranks as the third largest “negatively influential global company in relation to Paris climate policy” on the planet – behind Exxon-Mobile at number one and Chevron at number two Climate Policy Footprint 2021 by InfluenceMap. I suppose going from third to 10th is an improvement, but it’s not usually an achievement you’re aiming for when you’re somewhere on a list that has a high concentration of oil producers.
You can remember that too Toyota sided with the Legion of Doom during the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent California from having cleaner air than the rest of the country, along with corporations like GM, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Kia, Subaru and Mazda. For a company that prides itself on “driving sustainability,â€ Thatâ€™s not exactly the attitude one would expect. But as long as automakers churn out greenwashing propaganda, people have a right to point out their hypocrisy.