February 21, 2006
Written by C.N.
Toyota wants to be just another good ‘ol boy — they’ve recently announced that they will join Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge as automobile manufacturers competing in the NASCAR Nextel Cup racing series. You may remember that this is the most popular racing series in the western hemisphere, anchored by the world famous Daytona 500 that took place yesterday.
You may also remember that NASCAR has strong roots in the American South and is generally considered to be a virtually all-White sports environment. As such, as a recent post on AutoBlog notes, the reaction to Toyota’s announcement has been mixed:
“I’m not going to root for the cars,” said fan Al High when asked about Toyota’s entry. “I’m going to root for the drivers.” Another fan, Glen Barber, said “it doesn’t bother me they’re in racing. … It’s just another nose piece (front of car) and a brand name.”
But fan Glen Wilkinson was definitely not accommodating. “It won’t be NASCAR,” he stated. “It will be ‘Japanese car’.” And while he’s aware that Toyota has plants in the U.S. building vehicles (called ‘transplants’) he added, “I know we got a plant up there (in Georgetown), but it’s not American. I think they ought to just ship it out of here, anything that’s not American-made.”
Toyota is apparently aware of the situation and sees participation in NASCAR as a further extension to its American factories, employment, and reputation. Said said Jim Farley, vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., “we (Toyota) hope, if we do it right, it’s a way to be seen as a part of America, not just a company with a big check.
In that same AutoBlog post, some of the comments from readers point out that while Toyota’s plants are hiring more American workers and paying out larger bonuses, “American” automakers like Ford, GM, and Chrysler are laying off workers and giving out smaller bonuses. In other words, it all comes back to the question, “What constitutes ‘American’?”
That is, Toyota has several factories in the U.S. that employ thousands of American workers, are profitable, and contribute to the U.S.’s economy. Not to mention that the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. for the past several years. The only hangup that some people apparently have is that it is not an “American-owned” company, although it doesn’t seem to bother Americans that Chrysler is owned by Mercedes-Benz from Germany.
This episode is still to be played out of course, once Toyota actually starts racing in NASCAR, but alas, it is just another example of the ethnocentric and xenophobic mentality that still prevails too often in the U.S.: only Whites — and culture predominantly associated with Whites — deserve to be considered as “real” Americans.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Toyota Joins NASCAR" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/02/toyota-joins-nascar/> ().
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