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Toyota: Spends $1 Million an Hour on Safety?

Unless you have been asleep for the past month or two, you probably have seen the bright red Toyota commercial touting their commitment to safety:

It says:

“At Toyota, we care about your safety. That’s why we’re investing a million dollars every hour to improve our technology and your safety. It’s an investment that has helped Toyota win multiple top safety pick awards for 2010 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No other brand has won more. These top safety picks and all our new safety innovations are available at . “

The average TV watcher will likely take away the message that Toyota cares about safety, has won a lot of safety awards, and is spending a million dollars an hour to improve safety.

Mouse Print* asked the company how they arrived at the million dollars an hour figure.


“The $1 million figure represents Toyota’s total global spending on R&D to enhance the safety and technology of its vehicles. [Toyota] projects $760 billion yen [to be spent in FY2011] on R&D. Breaking down the calculations, 90 yen to the dollar equals $8.44 billion, which works out to $2,318,310 per day or $965,962 an hour, rounded to $1 million an hour. In any event, any fluctuations in the yen would impact the exact final figure.”

The key issue is not so much that they rounded up the figure to a million dollars an hour (exaggerating the amount spent by almost $30 million a year) but rather that the number is TOTAL spending on research and development, not just on safety issues. The company could not provide a number for the actual amount just spent on safety, but it certainly is less than the total spent on R&D, and therefore is not $1 million dollars an hour.

When this discrepancy and interpretation of the commercial was pointed out to Toyota, they responded:

“As the commercials mention, the $1 million figure represents Toyota’s R&D spending on new technology and safety, much of it allocated to quality and safety features.”

If you parse the key sentence in the commercial, it does indeed say that they are spending $1 million an hour to “improve our technology AND your safety.” But by using the term “safety” seven times in 30 seconds, and displaying the words “safety” or “safe” on the screen for much of the commercial, listeners are likely to get the net impression that Toyota is spending a million dollars an hour to “improve our technology FOR your safety.” We don’t think the average consumer would take away from the commercial that the company is spending some number less than a million dollars an hour on safety.

In Massachusetts, we have an advertising regulation that provides:

“An advertisement as a whole may be unfair or deceptive although each representation separately construed is literally true.”

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14 thoughts on “Toyota: Spends $1 Million an Hour on Safety?”

  1. Typical Toyota Lies and Deceit. Nothing new there. And if anyone really believes that Toyota cares about safety then they haven’t been paying attention the last few years. I could detail all that Toyota has done to thwart the investigations but that would fill a book. These are some of the most arrogant people on the planet, lying is a way of life with Toyota.

  2. When I first saw this one, I thought: “$1 million/hour on safety – $10 million/hour telling everyone about it.

  3. Unless the breakdown quote is verbatim, the daily number should be 23 million, not 2.3 million.

    ¥760,000,000,000/year ÷ 90¥/$ = $8,444,444,444.44/year ÷ 365 days/year = $23,135,464.23/day ÷ 24 hours/day = $963,977.68/hour

    Edgar replies: The quote above is exactly what Toyota sent, but you appear to be absolutely correct.

  4. This is a pretty weak MousePrint. I don’t have a dog in the fight. This just seems like you’re running out of good ideas to write about.

    Edgar replies: If catching the largest carmaker making misleading representations about safety in a national advertising campaign is “weak”, then I don’t know what’s “strong”. Do feel free to submit a better story.

  5. @ Edgar – I guess I simply don’t see the ad copy as misleading. Toyota has (without merit, in my opinion) been beat up with bad press over the past year or so – specifically targeting its safety. Of course it wants to emphasize “safety” in its advertising. How else should it try to repair its sullied reputation?
    I’m seeing a lot of BP commercials right now and they all talk about how the company cares about the environment, how it accepts responsibility for the Gulf spill, and how it wants to make things right again. Should we call BS on BP because it abruptly changed course on its advertising strategy? When the alternative for both companies is to pretend everything is fine, it is easy to understand why they are focusing on their image.

  6. @ducheznee – you can’t see where it is misleading when it is pointed out in black and white? Toyota states we are spending 1 million dollars on safety. No they are spending 1 million dollars on overall r&d, and that will include money spent on what plastic the cup holder should be made out of next year to improve the inertial dampening between cup and car, absoulutly nothing to do with safety. SO what percentage of the 1 million figure is on safety, not 100% that is for sure.

    If BP started saying in there commercials that they are going to spend 3 million dollars a day to clean up the gulf, but then spent 1/2 of that looking for a new design for a oil-rig, they would be lying (and I am sure Edgar would call them on it). Yes it is going to improve the overall company/product, but they are still not doing what they said they are doing.

  7. Alright then, keep fighting the good fight. And be sure not to buy anything from those lying bastards at Toyota or BP. Here’s hoping you’ll return your attention to consumer scams and corporate slight-of-hand.

  8. Just_Gerald is right, they are running a deceitful PR campaign with the (correct) notion that Americans are stupid enough to let Toyota piss on their backs and tell them it’s raining. They hire million-dollar marketing experts to make these ads that use repetition and legalese-style fact claims to purposefully mislead the masses into thinking one thing, when reality is something different.

    The real questions is whether or not Toyota or BP for that matter will truly correct the problems that led to their disasters, or do what I personally think will happen, and go right back to their historical ways as soon as people start buying Toyota cars in droves and filling at BP gas stations.

  9. Let me guess the next scenario…Toyota’s SMART Team will swoop down on the vehicle and determine that the vehicle is absolutely fine with no electronic problems whatsoever! It will then come out with the SPIN that the Toyota owner is full of TOYOTA SLUDGE and just trying to start a big conspiracy against the faultless company! It will then attempt to defame and discredit the person that it indirectly sent to prison for several years!

    OH, MY! What a feeling!!

  10. You would not belive the problems we had with a RX300 a couple years back.

    Catastophic failure that almost killed my family (no one hurt, but resulted in loss of vehicle control), followed by incompetent repair which failed to uncover yet another potentially catastrophic failure.

    These were cracks in the transmissions, both front and back, in an all wheel drive vehicle.

    Can you-believable. That was the end of toyota, for us.

  11. All this conversation describes the REAL issue advertisers prey upon: The masses are gullible asses. Just say SAFETY in your ad several times and they’ll never notice what you REALLY said.

    What does that say about US? If it didn’t work, they’d not do it. They all know it.

    Just consider all advertising a clever professionally designed deceit to seperate you from your money. Then YOU dig up the facts.

    But that takes effort, so it’s out. RIGHT!

  12. LOL. I doubt anyone reading MousePrint is a gullible ass. Perhaps I’m the only person on this thread that simply recognizes advertising for what it is: a sales pitch. L. Head is right on. Except, why waste time disproving every ad we see. Just don’t believe any of it. If a Toyota is on your short list, THEN do your research. They can claim 100 mpg and a never-needs-washing paint job. That doesn’t mean they automatically get my business.

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