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Toyota hits back at minister over insult

Weyts in garage gear in Aalst at the weekend © Belga

Car manufacturer Toyota has replied to Flemish minister Ben Weyts over an unguarded remark make in the Flemish parliament last week, critical of Toyota cars.

Weyts was replying to criticism of the cost of the fleet of cars used by Flemish government ministers. For a government of nine ministers, the government maintains a fleet of 34 high-end lease cars.

The cost of one ministerial car, according to Jos D’haese of the far-left PDVA party, is more in a month than many Flemish people earn.

You are making us out to be freeloaders,” Weyts replied. “I agree that they are luxury cars, but I think that as a minister, when you are in touch with heads of government, heads of state, top CEOs, there must be some standing. We could also come by bus or a Toyota Corollo (sic),” he said.

“Your great inspirational example, the head of state in North Korea, even comes by train. Although it is his own train,” he added.

The issue soon blew up on social media, with criticism of the comments, in many cases from owners of Toyota vehicles.

Weyts himself tried to make light of the matter by turning up in Aalst at the weekend for the carnival parade, dressed in the uniform of a Toyota garage mechanic.

Then today, Toyota publishes a full-page ad in a number of newspapers in Flanders. The ad reads, “The new Toyota Corolla*. Less emissions, more standing.” And, “*Also well known as the Toyota Corollo.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times