U.S. officials are investigating how Islamic terror groups got their hands on a large quantity of Toyota SUVs and pick-up trucks that appear not only in TV news reports of conflict in the middle east, but also in ISIS propaganda videos.
Pimped up with heavy weapons, Toyota Land Cruisers and Hilux pick-ups are featured prominently in recent ISIS propaganda videos filmed in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Toyota, the world’s second largest vehicle manufacturer, is assisting in the investigation being led by the Terror Financing unit of the U.S. Treasury Department, which according to a spokesman, is part of an effort to stop Western-made goods from being used by terror groups.
He says U.S. Treasury officials are “working closely with foreign counterparts and stakeholders” on the issue.
Toyota’s Washington-based director of public policy and communications, Ed Lewis, says Toyota does not know how ISIS obtained the vehicles. He says the company has a “strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities”.
He added, “It is impossible for the company to track vehicles that have been stolen, or have been bought and resold by middlemen."
“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,” says Lewis
Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily says as well as using older trucks, it is believed ISIS has "acquired hundreds” of “brand new” Toyotas.
Toyota’s Iraqi sales figures show Land Cruiser and Hilux sales increased from 6,000 in 2011 to 18,000 in 2013, and then dropped to 13,000 in 2014.
In a released statement Toyota says it is not aware of any dealership selling to ISIS, but “would "immediately take action" including terminating distribution agreements.
CEO of the Counter Extremism Project Mark Wallace, a non-profit which investigates the financial support networks of terror groups, says, "Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand."