Toyota questioned over ISIS use of its vehicles

Toyota vehicles feature prominently in ISIS propaganda.
Toyota vehicles feature prominently in ISIS propaganda.

Japanese automaker Toyota has been questioned regarding the popularity of its vehicles with the extremist group ISIS.

US Treasury officials reportedly inquired into how the group managed to acquire so many of Toyota’s pickups for use in its wars in Syria and Iraq.

“We briefed Treasury on Toyota’s supply chains in the Middle East and the procedures that Toyota has in place to protect supply chain integrity,” said Ed Lewis, Toyota’s director of public policy and communications according to ABC News.

Toyota went on to explain that it has a strict policy which aims to forbid sales to known groups who may use them for “paramilitary or terrorist activities”.

This being said, the company also acknowledged that it has little control over the sale of its vehicles once they pass through middlemen.

Despite the comments from Toyota, the Treasury Department would not officially confirm any investigation.

“In line with our usual approach to understanding ISIL’s financial and economic activities, we are working closely with foreign counterparts and stakeholders worldwide,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, as well as Land Rovers, are incredibly popular with ISIS and feature prominently in the propaganda videos released by the group.

Such vehicles are often converted into so-called ‘technicals’, a term used to refer to a pickup truck with a DIY weapons system affixed to its rear. These weapons usually include heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft cannons or multiple rocket launchers.

In desert environments technicals are used to great effect to outmanoeuvre more heavily armoured vehicles, as well as rapidly bringing fire support to a frontline.

The Toyota Hilux especially has a strong reputation as a reliable and sturdy vehicle, and is used by many groups, including NGOs, charities, governments and militaries around the world.

ISIS’s vehicles were likely obtained through a number of methods, including theft, smuggling, and black market purchases in other neighbouring countries.

While the group operates hundreds of such vehicles, this remains a small percentage of the more than 5 million Toyota Hilux cars sold over the last decade. For this reason it is very difficult for lawmakers to stop the extremist group from obtaining them.

On John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show this past Sunday (Oct. 11), the comedian poked fun at Toyota’s supply chain and labelled its vehicles as “instruments of death”.