Exclusive: BMW and Toyota Sound Off on "Subvertisers", Neither Carmaker Holds Back

Toyota and BMW Artwork that Replaced The Companies' Ads 9 photos
Photo: Brandalism on Twitter / Brighton BDS on Twitter
Outdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Done Against Toyota by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Done Against Toyota by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Against Toyota Done by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Against Toyota Done by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by ActivistsOutdoor Ad Campaign Against Toyota Done by Activists
A couple of days ago, environmental activists from three UK- and U.S.-based organizations decided to sound the alarm over what the auto industry is NOT doing to combat climate change. To make sure their actions don’t go unnoticed, they targeted BMW and Toyota. Their most recent ads were replaced with artworks that put both brands in a rather grotesque light. But now the automakers are providing an answer.
Brandalism, Subvertisers’ International, and Extinction Rebellion tapped 12 artists to create new ads that would replace overnight what the Germans and the Japanese wanted to advertise during the 100th edition of the Brussels Motor Show. And the activists made it happen – from outdoor panels to bus stops and inside subways. They even expanded this action beyond Brussels. Their version of the automotive ads was seen in other major European cities.

The artwork painted a grim picture for both automakers. The nonprofit organizations wanted to let everyone know that BMW and Toyota are not doing enough for a greener future and are not moving as fast as they should toward electromobility. So, they cropped up a couple of disturbing images that ended up plastered in popular locations. Some even (maybe illegally) replaced the auto companies’ official ad overnight.

A similar action happened last year, in October. The eco-activists wanted to point out that some airlines pollute very much, so airlines like Lufthansa were portrayed as gaslighting their customers.

Outdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by Activists
Photo: Extinction Rebellion Hammersmith & Fulham on Twitter
But let's see what automakers have to say about these initiatives. In an exclusive response to autoevolution, BMW and Toyota told us what their stance is regarding the activists’ recent activities.

Clearing the air

The Bavarian carmaker told us that sustainability is a fundamental part of the company’s corporate strategy. It added that BMW is “committed to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and is following a scientifically validated and transparent path along the entire value chain.”

The response also underlined that BMW was the first German car brand to join the "Business Ambition for 1.5°C" – the United Nations-backed campaign that recognizes businesses that commit to the Net-Zero Standard. This means that the manufacturer agreed to make essential changes to its operations and adopted the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The automaker is also a member of the UN Race to Zero program, which seeks support from relevant parties to halve emissions by 2030, essentially working within the framework of the Paris Agreement.

On top of all this, BMW told us that at least half of its new car sales will comprise fully electric vehicles by 2030. Using 2019 as a reference point, the Bavarians are also taking all the relevant steps to shrink the carbon footprint of their products by 40% by 2030.

Now, even though the activists accused BMW of faking emission testing, the automaker told us that “any deliberate, targeted procedure for unlawful manipulation of exhaust emissions would not be acceptable” to them. It even doubled down on this by adding that “there are and were no activities or technical measures at the BMW Group to influence the test mode for recording emissions in a targeted way.”

Outdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by Activists

BMW also made it clear that it rejects the Brandalism campaign and said that all the allegations are factually incorrect.

Toyota, on the other hand, explained for autoevolution that it is “committed to achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.” Their efforts to lower overall emissions have also been in line with the proposals included in the Net-Zero Standard. Moreover, Toyota is also taking the necessary steps to abide by the criteria set in place by SBTi’s Scope 3 targets, which require keeping the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Things are looking good

This matters because Scope 1 and Scope 2 refer to what an entity can do with its operations for emissions to contract to pre-industrial levels, whereas Scope 3 aims to lower the emissions that are associated with the use of a company’s products or services. Essentially, this means that a manufacturer like Toyota must make sure that its cars can’t be used to pollute more than has been initially estimated. Simultaneously, the carmaker must verify that its suppliers and partners are also adhering to a low-emission business practice. Complete details about these targets are available at the end of this article, in the attached .PDF file.

“In Europe, Toyota has consistently overachieved the fleet CO2 emission targets put in place by the EU – in fact, we have been a leader in this area for twenty years,” says the company while also adding that it is committed to reducing CO2 emissions from its new vehicle sales in Europe by 100% from 2035. This translates into Toyota selling only all-electric vehicles from 2035 onwards. However, it also plans on making zero-emission cars account for more than 50% of the total new car sales by 2030.

Outdoor Ad Campaign Against Toyota Done by Activists
Photo: Extinction Rebellion Midlands on Twitter
Toyota believes that we are headed for a future where vehicles will use different all-electric propulsion systems. However, until that stage is reached, the Japanese automaker believes that “multiple technology solutions are necessary to lower carbon emissions as much as possible and as soon as possible.” Toyota says that zero-emission vehicles aren’t feasible for everyone, everywhere. This is a known stance of the Japanese company and it apparently plans to stick by it.

“We believe that giving people access to multiple technologies is a more inclusive path towards carbon neutrality. Which is why we offer battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids and hybrids. We call this the ‘power of AND’ because rarely does one size fit all when you consider the diversity of customer needs,” explains Toyota.

Finally, neither BMW nor Toyota said anything about following up with authorities on the ad replacement matter. We also don’t know if the brands will make the nonprofits pay for vandalizing the paid ad space. Both brands, however, clarified their stance on the environment and explained what they are doing to remain aligned with the global views on the decarbonization matter.
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 Download: SBTi's Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 Explained (PDF)

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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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