- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday that Toyota has made no progress on improving its record on minority issues, and that he is prepared to go ahead with his threat of leading an economic boycott.
Mr. Jackson said the U.S. arm of the Japanese automaker, initially under fire from the civil rights activist for an ad it placed earlier this year, has not yet agreed to enhance its number of minority-owned dealerships, nor has it shown a willingness to do so.
"The facts have not changed," said Mr. Jackson, who was in Washington to speak at a workshop at the National Urban League's annual convention. "Toyota has 1,400 dealerships, and 55 are black- or brown-owned. [Toyota's luxury offshoot] Lexus has 190 dealerships, and eight are black- or brown-owned. They let all of those out without any minority consideration. Unless some progress is made, we will have to begin some sanctions."
Mr. Jackson imposed an Aug. 1 deadline for Toyota Motor Sales USA to show some progress toward increased minority hiring as well as bringing in more minority advertising agencies.
The sanctions could be announced during the Aug. 8-12 convention of Mr. Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Chicago.
"A boycott is the last resort," Mr. Jackson said yesterday. "But we haven't even agreed on numbers for the dealerships as goals."
A Toyota spokeswoman responded that the company has been diligent in its diversity efforts, prior to and following Mr. Jackson's accusations that the automaker has a poor record on minority issues.
"We have been doing our absolute best to avoid any boycott," Tracy Underwood said. "We really feel that our diversity programs that we have in place make a real difference and believe that a boycott is not necessary."
She noted that in the last three years, the number of Toyota's minority-owned dealerships has risen by more than 37 percent. Toyota dealerships run by blacks have increased by 53 percent in that same time period, she said.
The U.S. subsidiary's Web site states that 63 of 1,378 Toyota and Lexus dealers are owned by minorities. The company does not keep data on the ethnic composition of its customer base, Miss Underwood said.
Miss Underwood said that a diversity review panel will be implemented to oversee advertisements before they are released.
Mr. Jackson was angered by an ad that came out in May. The print advertisement showed a close-up of a black person's smile that featured a gold RAV4, a small sport utility vehicle, carved on a front tooth. The ad was placed on giveaway postcards that are found on racks in trendy nightclubs, coffeehouses and restaurants.
Toyota removed the ad on its own on May 14.
But a week later, Mr. Jackson accused the company of racist advertising while excluding blacks among its dealers, board of directors and advertising agencies.
It is a strategy that Mr. Jackson has used frequently over the years. He has been criticized in some quarters by people who call it a form of blackmail. In 1990, the civil rights activist demanded that Nike do more business with black-owned firms. Instead, Nike responded by questioning Mr. Jackson's finances and his relationship with Nike's competitor, Reebok International.
Some also question the effectiveness of economic boycotts in achieving their goals. "Boycotts sometimes have an impact," said Todd Malan, executive director of the Organization for International Investment. "But in general, they are not a productive way to reach a goal."

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