The new Toyota commercials showing people dumping their cars so they can get new ones are amusing, clever and most likely very effective in marketing new cars. They also encourage fraud.
With more people than ever “upside-down” on their car loans — and already having an incentive to ditch their vehicles — subtle suggestions that it’s OK to take this drastic step doesn’t help.
No one believes that these commercials alone will entice car owners into criminal behavior. But there is a growing body of research that suggests an environment that tolerates acceptance of unethical behavior does influence some people to act unethically. And these commercials add to that negative environment.
I’ve written to the president of Toyota and appealed to him to abandon this campaign. We’ve also asked for a meeting to solicit Toyota’s support in a campaign to discourage auto give-ups.
I can understand why Totota’s ad agency came up this campaign. The underlying message is nobody likes insurance companies anyway, so why not get them to help you buy a new car. But what I don’t understand is why a car company would want to encourage a practice that makes it more expensive for their customers to use their product.
If we meet with Toyota executives, perhaps we can find out.
P.S. Let Toyota know how you feel about this advertising campaign. You can e-mail the company at its website.
Update – December 19, 2007: The Boston Globe ran a great story on this issue today. Pressure is building on Toyota to abandon these ads.
Update II – December 19, 2007 – Here’s Toyota’s response to one state fraud bureau director’s letter. Rather weak.
Update III – December 21, 2007 – The Republican-American newspaper out of Waterbury, Conn. published an outstanding editorial this morning. They understand how some people will be influenced in our culture:
Given people’s attitudes on fraud and the proclivity of some to “try this at home” — the Jackass Syndrome, if you will — insurers should not be surprised to see a spike in the number of claims for totaled vehicles.
But this may be the best line in the editorial:
The industry would be wise to keep track of those claims, but rather than add the cost to everyone’s premiums, it should send the bill to Toyota with a short note: “You asked for it, you got it, Toyota.”