- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

Toyota Motor Sales USA said yesterday it would spend $7.8 billion over 10 years to increase business with minority suppliers and hire more minority employees, yielding to demands of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's organization to avert a boycott.
Mr. Jackson threatened to boycott Toyota following a sales promotion by the automaker that the civil rights leader said was offensive to blacks.
Toyota plans to spend $650 million in the next year with minority businesses and expand use of minority banking firms. The automaker plans to hire a black advertising agency next month and to spend $150 million over the next three years on black and Hispanic promotional programs.
Details of the deal were announced by Mr. Jackson at the Rainbow/PUSH annual meeting in Chicago and by James Press, Toyota's vice president and chief operating officer.
Toyota also said it would train and hire more minority employees and dealers. Currently, 63 of Toyota's 1,378 U.S. dealerships are owned by minorities, which is 4.6 percent of the total. Mr. Press said Toyota "set a goal of adding four to six new minority dealers each and every year."
Sales managers at Washington area Toyota dealerships said they have not personally seen evidence of racism within the company.
"I don't see anything in terms of discrimination," said James Kelly, a black general sales manager at Capital Toyota in Landover.
Cliff Goff, sales manager at Leesburg Toyota, said the $7.8 billion amount of the program seemed "a little bit" excessive. "But that's their decision, not mine."
Mr. Jackson threatened the boycott in May after Toyota distributed postcard ads showing a close-up of a dark-skinned man's mouth with an image of a gold Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle on one tooth. He postponed the boycott after meeting with Toyota executives, who promised to spend more on their diversity program.
The program announced yesterday represents a 30 percent to 35 percent increase in minority spending by Toyota.
"Toyota is beginning to recognize that diversity truly can enhance business growth," Mr. Jackson said.
Rainbow/PUSH had demanded that Toyota replace the ad's creator, Saatchi & Saatchi Plc, with a minority advertising agency. The automaker said it will continue using Saatchi & Saatchi but add two minority advertising agencies.
"Toyota's way of doing things is not to fire the guy on the assembly line, but to improve the process," Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said.
* This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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