US to Toyota: How Is ISIS Getting Your Trucks, SUVs?
Carmaker says it's cooperating with inquiry
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2015 2:29 PM CDT

(Newser) – How exactly is it that ISIS has a bunch of Toyota pick-up trucks and SUVs, which the terrorist group has used in propaganda videos? That's the question the Terror Financing unit of the US Treasury Department is asking Toyota, and the carmaker says it is cooperating with the inquiry. Toyota has a "strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities," a company director tells ABC News, but it's possible ISIS is using stolen vehicles or ones that were purchased by middlemen and then re-sold to the terror group. The Iraqi Ambassador to the US says that over the past few years, ISIS has somehow gotten its hands on "hundreds" of "brand new" models, though Toyota says many of the vehicles in question are not recent models. One counterterrorism organization wants Toyota to do more to track its vehicles, noting that they are stamped with ID numbers.

As ABC notes, the Toyota Hilux pick-ups (a truck similar to the Tacoma that is sold overseas) and Land Cruiser SUVs—shown full of weapons and bearing the black caliphate seal—are "fixtures" in propaganda videos in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. "Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand," says the former US ambassador to the UN. "In nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet—a convoy of Toyota vehicles." But figuring out how they got there is tricky; Toyota distributors in the region say they are clueless, and the consensus seems to be that someone is, as one Japanese conglomerate that ships vehicles to the area puts it, "operating outside of the law [and obtaining] vehicles for misappropriation." As the New Republic reported last month, "conspiracy theories and lots of questions" have long circulated about how the vehicles get into terrorists' hands; one such theory involves government involvement. (A Texas plumber's truck ended up with Syria militants ... with his company info still printed on the side.)