Anyone who loves cars, especially those working in the construction industry, wishes to have a vehicle as strong as the Toyota Hilux. Those who have had the pleasure of using it praise it, and if there were any way to have it legally, they would. However, unless you move out of the United States, you will never buy a Toyota Hilux within the borders. The reason dates back to over five decades, as you shall read from the details below.
It was Once Beloved
According to Toyota of Orlando, the Toyota Hilux was introduced to the North American market and quickly become a staple. It had short bed modifications and a regular cab, which seemed to attract buyers. Even when the second generation came, loyalty increased thanks to the upgrades such as a more comfortable interior. It replaced three Toyota models in 1972 when it got to the North American market, and by 1976 it was fondly referred to as a “pickup truck.”
While the buyers were already captivated by the vehicle, Toyota could not help but boast of its work calling the Hilux the toughest car in the world. Famous broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson best known for “Top Gear”, wanted to see if the Japanese were only tooting their own hone or there was truth in their claims. Therefore he took a 1988 Toyota Hilux to the Top Gear, determined to destroy it. Besides drowning it in seawater overnight and dropping a trailer on it, he also set it on fire and true to the Japanese remarks, nothing could destroy the vehicle.
With such strength, the vehicle became an obvious choice for those dealing in construction or other lines of work that needed a sturdy car. For twenty years, Americans spoke highly of it and proved with their actions by buying it since it fulfilled their various needs. Well, that was until 1995 when it suddenly disappeared from the North American market. For a vehicle with such a good reputation spanning two decades, it makes you wonder what went wrong for it to be banned from the US.
Laws and Regulations are to Blame
The sturdy built of the Toyota Hilux is an attractive feature that makes you wonder why even if it disappeared from the US market, you can’t just import your own. Well, the government was determined not to destroy the local auto industry with imports. It seemed like counteraction; once West Germany and France imposed a chicken tax on chicken meat imported from the United States, the then President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, counteracted by imposing a similar tax. According to ThoughtCo, the chicken war tax began in the 1950s. While in Germany, there was a scarcity of chicken, in the US, there was plenty; enough to export. The European governments felt their economy was threatened by importation from the US hence the chicken tax tariff was imposed. In retaliation, President Lyndon imposed a tariff on dextrin, potato starch and brandy. The 25% tariff was also on light trucks such as the Volkswagen AG, whose business collapsed in the US.
Unfortunately, while the tariff was aimed at punishing the German and French, whose demand for brandy began decreasing, there were other casualties. The Japanese many have had nothing to do with the trade war between the US and West Germany, but they were hit hard by the sudden collapse of the light truck business. Their small trucks, such as the Toyota Hilux, could not survive the American-made trucks’ competition. With the 25% being imposed on light trucks importing one would not make sense. Since there was no Toyota company in America making the truck, anyone interested in buying it would have to compare between what the US manufacturers made and buying one from Japan, inclusive of the 25% tax. A shrewd buyer would decide to stick to the US-made vehicles.
Still, even after the chicken tax was implemented, another law was enforced ̶ the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act (IVSCA). The bill was dubbed the 25-year import rule. It restricted the importation of non-conforming automobiles for resale purposes, and the only exemption were those foreign motor vehicles that were 25 years or older. Importing such vehicles would be lengthy and costly. However, the IVSCA allowed registered importers to sell foreign-made cars in the United States, but only if they met American safety and emission standards. With such restrictions importing no longer made sense for sensible automakers, and the Toyota Hilux was banned.
The US Manufacturers Take Over the Pickup Business in US
Japan did not want to give up easily on the American market. Therefore, according to Forbes, they tried finding a way around the chicken tax. They started importing chassis then adding beds to them after being offloaded in the US. Importing the chassis was not as cost-effective as building it within the United States; hence the Japanese decided to establish a factory. The business boomed to attract the envy of the US manufacturers, who also wanted a piece of the pie.
Ford also began importing parts from Turkey and assembling them in the US. AEI enlightens us that the chicken tax has effectively kept the major US automakers comprising of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors in the market without stiff competition. It has been to the detriment of buyers because without any other company threatening the share market, the automakers have relaxed and are not improving their products.
Even if you can no longer buy the Toyota Hilux in the US, you will sometimes find it in the news. For instance, in 2012, MotorTrend published that while the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) had a measuring program that only involved US-made vehicles, they still were using the Toyota Hilux for their tests. One of the executives explained that it was not easy having the car in the US. The association needed waivers from the NTHSA and the EPA to import the car. It was considered a temporary import, and such vehicles are allowed in the country for only a year.