A parody is a comical retelling and transformation of another text, created with the intent of calling to light perceived weaknesses through imitation and mockery. It’s fun to check out some Toyota parodies at this transitional moment in time — a time in which the automotive industry is moving head-on to all electric transportation. For far too long, legacy automakers were entrenched in sticking to The Way We’ve Always Done It. Now the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is predicted to swallow up the global automotive industry — and Toyota has been caught distracted and behind.
ToyotaYawn: Public Citizen Lampoons the Japanese Carmaker
Public Citizen has launched ToyotaYAWN, a 5-figure ad campaign highlighting Toyota Motor Corp.’s lack of commitment to convert its full lineup of cars and trucks to zero emission vehicles.
“ToyotaYAWN is on!” reads an actor in the commercial spot, dressed in the same signature red the actual Toyota actor wears in the company’s US market commercials. (Red is one of the most dominant colors in Japanese culture. It is symbolic of the imperial nation, represented as a filled circle to symbolize the sun on the national flag.)
The actor announces to the camera, “With zero commitment to electrify our full fleet and only one EV on the market, it’s the least exciting time of the year.”
Red vertical banners that flank the stage backdrop are embossed with “ZZZ,” connoting sleepiness.
The ad lampoons the company’s longstanding end-of-the-year sale. “The boring, out-of-touch, and gas-guzzling offerings at Toyota’s end-of-year sales event are enough to put anyone to sleep,” said East Peterson-Trujillo, clean vehicles campaigner with Public Citizen. “Consumers want electric vehicles, but Toyota’s refusal to innovate means we won’t find them at ToyotaYAWN this year.”
The ad campaign, which will run online and on streaming platforms and is live through January 2, targets Toyota owners in Texas, Minnesota, Georgia, Idaho, and Tennessee.
The ToyotaYAWN commercial comes a week after activists from across the country called on Toyota to commit to producing only zero emission cars — the activists signed petitions, placed phone calls to executives and local dealerships, and spoke out on social media. The activists continue to call on the company to transition its full line-up of cars and trucks to zero emissions vehicles.
The Onion: Another in a Line of Fun Toyota Parodies
According to “eyewitness reports” on The Onion, visibly frantic area resident Dwight Freeman, 31, rushed headlong out his front door Sunday in a desperate attempt to get to his local dealer’s limited-time Toyotathon before his brief window of opportunity closed.
“My God, I have to get there right now!” screamed Freeman. He — after hearing a radio ad that claimed “these deals [would not] last long” — reportedly ran across his yard while pulling a shirt over his head as he carried his shoes in one hand and slammed a cup of coffee with the other. “These are the best deals of the season — the whole season.”
At press time, the wife and children of a frazzled, bleary-eyed Freeman were seen stumbling after him as he punched the car’s steering wheel and yelled, “Come on, come on, come on!”
The Onion publishes satirical articles on international, national, and local news. Much like the Public Citizen’s ToyotaYAWN text, this addition to the Toyota parodies infuses absurdity of focusing on year-end consumption as imperative and a value. In reality, in today’s automotive marketplace new influences are forcing automakers to change directions quickly:
- EVs are gaining momentum
- automakers need to rise to the challenge of complexity in cars
- dealerships are being forced to adopt new sales models
- a decline is taking place in traditional car ownership
A tried-and-true ad campaign like “the best deals of the season” fails to capture the new and pressing wish lists of many of today’s automotive consumers.
Toyota’s Real Ad Campaign into 2023
Because driving can be an important part of all kinds of life events, “places” can be so much more than a physical area.
At least that’s the idea behind Toyota’s new brand campaign, “Never Settle.” Launched in October and slated to run through February, 2023, the brand campaign celebrates special moments within the chapters of people’s driving lives. The campaign comprises 7 broadcast commercials developed by using the company’s long-standing Total Toyota (T²) marketing model (2013), which “fully considers the transcultural mainstream audiences” across the US.
“We’ve created varying degrees of brand work in the past that helped build familiarity with Toyota,” says Lisa Materazzo, group vice president, Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “But this is the first time we’ve created a campaign of this scale and type that is supported by dedicated work from all 4 of our advertising agencies.”
We love stories. Stories bring immediacy to human experiences. Somehow, though, the Toyota parodies are a whole lot more entertaining and fun than this 10-year-old generic promotional campaign.
The Hydrogen Fuel Cell: No Toyota Parodies Here
According to a company press release, Toyota believes that “life is bigger when you seek out adventure, when you ‘go places,’ when you never settle.”
Doesn’t it seem as if the company has settled on an antiquated mission statement to focus almost exclusively on hydrogen? The company explains,
“An electric vehicle is powered by electricity stored in a battery which needs recharging when it runs low. Whereas a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle like the Toyota Mirai produces its own electricity through a chemical reaction in its fuel cell stack. Refuelled with hydrogen from a pump in less than five minutes, much like a conventional petrol vehicle, the Mirai offers impressive performance, convenient long-distance motoring and its only tailpipe emission is water.”
Toyota introduced the fuel cell sedan, the Mirai FCEV, to California back in 2015. As CleanTechnica‘s Tina Casey noted in a pun, “It’s been a tough cell ever since, but the company is still determined to raise the profile of hydrogen-powered mobility.”
Could it have been just this past January that Toyota outsold GM in 2021? It marked the first time since 1931 that the Detroit automaker wasn’t the bestselling car company in the US. The historic change occurred as Toyota was able to manage supply chain issues better than GM, including an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips.
How could an automaker at the top of their manufacturing and sales game be so out of touch with clear trends toward a future of automotive electrification?
The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario from the IEA sees an electric car fleet of over 300 million in 2030 and electric cars accounting for 60% of new car sales. Getting on track with the Net Zero Scenario requires automotive sales share to increase by less than 6% percentage points per year. Per year.
In October, press leaks revealed that Toyota was considering a reboot of its EV strategy to better compete in a booming market it has been slow to enter. It reportedly halted some work on existing EV projects; such proposals under review, if adopted, would amount to a dramatic shift for Toyota. The company would rewrite the $38-billion EV rollout plan the Japanese automaker announced last year to better compete with Tesla and other automakers with successful EVs. A working group within Toyota was charged with outlining plans by early 2023 for improvements to its existing EV platform or for a new architecture.
Earlier this month, anonymous sources described how Toyota is expected to outline adjustments to its EV strategy to key suppliers early next year. The race is on, it seems, as the company attempts to narrow the gap on price and performance with industry leaders Tesla and BYD. Still the leading Japanese automaker, Toyota is expected to detail the EV plan changes through early 2026 by communicating the adjustments to major suppliers.
In the meantime, we look forward to more Toyota parodies as a way to keep the company’s decisions transparent.
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