When a great truck is used for a bad cause

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Updated Oct 9, 2015

Marketing campaigns, where a brand becomes “the official ‘something’ of ‘something else'” are not uncommon.

Chevrolet is the official pickup of the NFL and MLB. They pay a lot of money for that.

But has Toyota, namely its line of Hilux pickups, unwittingly become the official pickup of ISIS?

According to ABC News, the U.S. Treasury has asked Toyota how the terrorist group could have gotten so many of the Japanese automaker’s trucks, which are featured in ISIS videos. It’s beyond unlikely Toyota has done anything wrong. They can’t control who buys their products, and can even less control what they do with them.

Toyota spokesperson Ed Lewis told CNN, “Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities, and we have procedures and contractual commitments in place to help prevent our products from being diverted for unauthorized military use.”

Really, about all they can do is try.

Toyota is being swept up in a broad inquiry from the Treasury that seeks to look at how international supply chains (and cash) flow into the Middle East.

But an official inquiry on how ISIS could have gotten the trucks seems unnecessary. It’s not that hard to figure out.

Toyota’s Hilux pickup, which is sold in the Middle East, is one of the world’s best-selling small pickups. So the company’s involvement is most likely a simple matter of the truck’s popularity and availability. The Hilux is cheap and can take a savage beating. Parts are also easily accessible. Those traits come in handy in a harsh Middle Eastern environment, especially when running to a dealership with a warranty claim is probably out of the question.

Hilux is basically a ruggedized Tacoma. It has zero driver comfort features, but it has a superior reputation as a truck that can handle the extreme temperatures and terrain of the Middle East. And ISIS is hardly the first militant group to use them in their armada.

The good guys are also fond of Hilux. It’s the preferred fleet vehicle of the Pakistan Police, who employ it as a patrol vehicle. During the war in Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces ordered Tacomas spec’d to look like Hilux so they wouldn’t look out of place on Afghan roadways. Those trucks were shipped from the plant in Fremont, Calif. to halfway across the world.

In the video above, the BBC show Top Gear does everything it can to stop a Hilux and they can’t do it. In fact, Top Gear has used Hilux several times in their productions because they can take just about any abuse you hand it.

With a reputation for excellence like Hilux, it’s pretty easy to see why the pickup is so globally popular. Even if a few do happen to fall into the wrong hands.