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July 7, 2008

Be Patriotic: Buy a Japanese Car

Americans celebrate the Fourth of July in all sorts of interesting ways—watching fireworks, playing softball, eating fifty-nine hot dogs in ten minutes. Some are even commemorating two hundred and thirty-two years of independence from overseas oppression by purchasing cars from foreign automakers. Toyota of Manhattan and other dealers in the Tri-State area (and beyond), have launched Independence Day sales throughout the month of July. And they appear to be working, sort of.

Patriotic Toyota

Photo by Crowbert

According to Aneft Budhai, Sales Manager of Toyota of Manhattan, "There hasn't been much of an increase in sales, but I think that's because the advertising is tempered by the marketplace. Without the Independence sale, our revenue would probably be down right now, though how much so is hard to say." It's interesting that Americans would be buying foreign automobiles on our most jingoistic patriotic of holidays. Toyota seems poised to overtake GM's market-share, which would place it ahead of each of Detroit's big three automakers. According to the Wall Street Journal, a trend towards smaller, fuel-efficient cars and away from the trucks of the less-than-$4 gas era has benefited Japanese automakers at the expense of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Budhai isn't concerned with the conflicting messages of hawking a Japanese car on an American holiday. "The marketplace is too globalized to say that a car is American or foreign," he says. "What about Fords and Chryslers built in Canada and other places outside the US? It's not about who owns the company; it's more important how many US workers they employ."

The Independence Day sales events are conducted independently by each dealer, which may explain why we're still awaiting comment from Toyota's spokespeople. Still, we asked Gelf's PR-expert-in-residence, Merrill Freund aka The Flack, how he would react. "If I was a PR rep for Toyota I would point out that Toyota's plants in the US employ thousands of workers as do Toyota's US-based car dealers," says the Flack. "If I was a PR rep for an environmental organization I would point out that Toyota's cars are way beyond US models in energy efficiency and gas economy and will better help the US spend less on oil, end our dependency on Middle East exports and pressure US automakers to invest in hybrids and electric technology." And what if he worked for Detroit? "If I was a PR rep for a US automaker I'd quit and train for a triathlon full-time."

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