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Toyota: The Islamic State's Vehicle of Choice


Toyota probably didn't mean for its recent advertising slogan, "Let's Go Places," to be embraced by Islamic State militants.

For years, militants in the Middle East and elsewhere have turned to the company's trucks, which are both durable and relatively cheap.

But new images and video of fighters affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS (also known as ISIL), driving brand-new, gleaming white Toyota pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in both countries are attracting the attention of authorities.

Sales of the vehicles, including the Hilux pickup -- similar to the Tacoma -- and the Land Cruiser have surged in the region since 2011, according to Mark Wallace, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who is now chief executive officer of the Counter Extremism Project, a nonprofit that seeks to expose the financial networks of terrorist organizations.

Indeed, Toyota's overall vehicle sales in the Middle East region jumped from 527,500 in 2011 to 683,900 in 2012, alone, according to data released by the company.

"There has to be an explanation for that," Wallace said in a telephone interview with "What happened? How did all these vehicles get into the hands of terrorists? You can't just dismiss them as beat-up old cars. They're new models in good condition and this is a war zone."

For its part, Toyota claims it has a policy in place meant to deal with the issue.

"We have procedures in place to help ensure our products are not diverted for unauthorized military use," Ed Lewis, Toyota's Washington-based director of public policy and communications, told ABC News. But, he added, "It is impossible for Toyota to completely control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated."

Wallace said Toyota's response to the issue has been "perfunctory" and "dismissive."

"What's clear to me is if they have a policy in place, it probably needs to be revised," he said, with the goal of stopping their products from falling into the hands of illicit dealers or middle-men, he said.

Wallace described the car-maker as a "great brand" and a "great company," but said officials should take the issue seriously, as some consumers in the Middle East have told him that they're scared to drive the Hilux "for fear of being mistaken for ISIS."

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