This is likely to be my first and only post about NASCAR.
Reading my local paper today (the Palm Beach Post), I was struck by an article entitled "Toyota facing chilly reception in some NASCAR circles." Apparently, Toyota has now entered some cars (they are a version of the Camry model) in the NASCAR racing series for the first time. One of the biggest races of the year, the Daytona 500, was today, and it was Toyota's debut.
I haven't followed NASCAR in a long time (I watched occasionally as a kid), so this was the first I heard of Toyota joining and the mild controversy that came with it. (There's a NY Times op-ed about it here.) It's a bit reminiscent of last year's Dubai Ports controversy, although without the national security implications.
According to the Palm Beach Post article:
In Central Florida, an auto-parts store owner was so angry about [the driver] Dale Jarrett signing with a Toyota team (and taking his sponsor, UPS, with him), he vowed no UPS truck would ever again deliver parts to his store.
The driver in question, Dale Jarrett, had a pretty good response, though:
"Sure, the parent company is foreign," Jarrett says. "We could get into the argument about where the Ford Fusion is built - every one of them is built in Mexico. The (Chevrolet) Monte Carlos are built in Canada.
"We could go through all that stuff and see who is right and who is wrong, but there are a lot of Toyotas that are built in the United States. They employ a lot of people. But you're not going to get that across to some people, and I'm not going to try to."
Along the same lines, another article points out: "officials and drivers have not-so-subtly noted that while the passenger-car version of the Toyota Camry is made in the United States, the street-going version of the model Ford races, the Fusion, is made in Mexico. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Dodge Charger are made in Canada." And one article notes: "Toyota has been manufacturing vehicles in North America for 20 years, and last year built its 15 millionth vehicle here. It has 14 plants in North America, 13 in the U.S. It recently opened a new factory in San Antonio, where it will build the Tundra truck. In 2006, Toyota produced more than 1.55 million vehicles in North America. By 2008, it projects nearly 2 million." (Of course, all the vehicles in the actual race will have been built from scratch in fabrication shops in the vicinity of Charlotte, N.C.)
Not everyone is convinced, though:
But even some longtime drivers don't buy Toyota's made-in-America argument.
"I don't know," Sterling Marlin said. "They make a lot of them over here now, but they're still a foreign company. And you never would have thought 15, 10 or even five years ago that they'd be in this sport."
So is Toyota "foreign"? One of my first thoughts on reading all this was, hey, this reminds me of GATS Article XXVIII(m) and the Canada - Autos case, which also dealt with foreign ownership in the car industry. There, the panel found that the Canadian subsidiaries of DaimlerChrysler and Volvo were "juridical persons" of the United States because they were controlled by a U.S. parent (DaimlerChrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Co., respectively) (The panel considered it irrelevant that DaimlerChrysler Corporation may in turn be controlled by another person). See paras. 10.257, 10.259.
It's interesting to compare the GATS approach with the issues discussed in the newspaper articles quoted above. In the newspaper articles, it was often mentioned that Toyota makes a lot of cars in the U.S. (and that Ford and Chevy make some abroad). In the GATS, by contrast, issues of legal incorporation and control are key. There is some appeal to the less formalistic approach, though (focusing on questions like, where does the company operate? Where are its employees? Where are its sales?)
So who won the race? Kevin Harvick driving a Chevy. Dale Jarrett drove the highest finishing Toyota, in 23rd place.