TOKYO: Toyota on Thursday said it was willing to help the United States probe how the Islamic State (IS) group has managed to get hold of so many of its notoriously tough trucks.
The Japanese manufacturer responded after an ABC News report on Wednesday said counter-terrorism officials at the US Treasury have been in contact with the auto giant over the issue.
Fleets of Toyota trucks are a common feature of IS propaganda videos out of Syria, Iraq and Libya – many converted into fast moving heavy gun platforms known as “technicals.”
“We are supporting the US Treasury Department’s broader inquiry into international supply chains and the flow of capital and goods in the Middle East,” Toyota said in a statement.
“Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities,” it said.
Toyota’s pick-up trucks – as well as similar vehicles made by Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Isuzu – have long been favored by a host of militias, insurgencies and armies around the world, thanks to their affordability, adaptability and durability.
The final stages of a conflict in the late 1980s between Libya and Chad is often called “The Toyota War” because of the military successes Chadian soldiers had, thanks to the fast moving pick-ups.
Inspired by its tough reputation, the BBC’s Top Gear program once famously tried to destroy a Toyota pick-up by setting it alight, hitting it with a wrecking ball and even putting it on top of a building that was then blown up.
Each time, mechanics using a basic toolkit managed to bring the battered 4×4 back to life.
The IS group, which has seized huge amounts of military hardware during its rise—much of it US military equipment left by fleeing Iraqi allies – boasts large numbers of pick-up trucks in its videos.
“ISIS has used these vehicles in order to engage in military-type activities, terror activities, and the like,” Mark Wallace, a former US Ambassador who now runs a counter terrorism project, told ABC News. ISIS is the other name used for IS.
“In nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet—a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that’s very concerning to us,” he added.
The same report quoted Iraqi officials saying they feared new pick-up trucks were being smuggled into IS held territory from neighboring countries.
In its statement, Toyota said it had strict “procedures and contractual commitments” in place to try and stop the vehicles falling into the wrong hands.
“However, it is impossible for any automaker to control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated, stolen or re-sold by independent third parties,” the statement added.