An Open Letter To Toyota USA
May 2, 2016
I thought I’d drop you a quick note. I’d like to reintroduce you to Paul Farris (www.paulfarris.org). I recently talked about him with you, but perhaps you’ve already forgotten.
Paul is my son. Paul is DEAD. Yes, dead for 9 years – killed at age 23. He was an innocent bystander caught up in a police pursuit.
Sadly, he died in a police pursuit similar to those currently being trivialized by your Prius television commercials. It was a police chase that also killed another innocent man and severely injured Paul’s soul mate, Kate.
I know your Marketing and Communications folks have already visited my websites and that pleases me immensely.
I am thrilled that your Marketing leader and I will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face in May 2016.
And I am truly hopeful we will find common ground to support one another’s goals – you selling more cars and me saving many more lives by partnering with law enforcement and legislators to prevent unnecessary police pursuits.
I am honored that you listened to me a month ago and that you made the very responsible decision to discontinue the original Prius police chase / bank robber Super Bowl advertisements.
However, the story does not end there. Not only did you continue your second commercial (with a Prius police car), but you have just launched a truly reprehensible third ad. This one has a group of idiots, driving on a highway and playing ‘chicken’ in front of law enforcement officers pursuing the robbers (https://goo.gl/UNeK1j).
Apparently this is simply a “cute” commercial to you and your advertising agency.
Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. Do you not understand that these commercials are not “cute” in any way whatsoever?
These ads send an incredibly socially irresponsible message to viewers that it’s OK to disrespect law enforcement. And they are certainly not funny to the thousands of us who suffer daily with the deaths or injuries of loved ones as the result of dangerous police chases.
So as a result Toyota, these commercial continue to disrespect Paul, my family, other victims and especially all law enforcement officers who risk their lives for our safety.
Why are you running these ads? May I assume it is to sell your very socially responsible, environmentally friendly Prius?
Perhaps we should not be surprised that Toyota is sending mixed messages: selling a socially responsible ‘green’ vehicle while telling the viewing public it’s OK to drive dangerously and interfere with police.
In your $1.3 billion settlement for covering deadly safety defects, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called out Toyota’s “shameful” behavior that “showed blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers.” Perhaps laws and safety truly are that low on Toyota’s priority list?
Yes Toyota, I know that you spend billions of dollars on advertising. And perhaps because of that it will be tough for my message to be heard – because media certainly doesn’t want to lose the revenue you provide. I would actually match you dollar for dollar just to stop these ads – if I had an extra billion – but I’m a few dollars short.
So instead I’ll continue to share Paul’s story and use Pursuit For Change as my socially responsible vehicle for truly important change. Changes that will save lives of innocent individuals and law enforcement officers. Many of whom we save will be Toyota drivers. And perhaps one of those saved will be a Toyota employee, or the son or daughter of a Toyota employee.
So Toyota, take a deep breath, step up to the plate and pull the plug on all of your police chase ads today.
I will most certainly thank you. And I know Paul would be grateful, too, if he was still here.
Jonathan Farris is Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change. Jon’s son Paul was killed in a horrific police pursuit crash outside of Boston in May 2007. Jon can be reached at Jon@PursuitForChange.org.