A judge in Nanterre, France, has ruled that Toyota must take down all advertisements and promotional photographs that display SUVs driving on an unpaved surface.
Filed last April by non-profit organization France Nature Environment (FNE), the lawsuit was aimed at an ad campaign that promoted the RAV4, the Land Cruiser and the Hilux pickup truck. While some of the images showed the off-roaders driving on paved roads, many depicted them driving over small boulders or through streams.
At a hearing that took place earlier this month, Toyota's lawyers argued that the photos were taken abroad and were therefore not covered by French law. The argument was not convincing enough and the court sided with FNE, explaining that Toyota's photos encourage irresponsible behavior, such as the destruction of nature, by conveying the message that SUV drivers can go anywhere they please regardless of laws and regulations.
Toyota is not planning on filing an appeal and it has already started to remove the images. The automaker issued a statement saying that it was very surprised by the ruling because it has always asked the relevant authorities for permission when shooting photographs off-road and it has even gone as far as re-creating off-road scenes in a studio when needed.
The Japanese automaker has a month to take down all billboard ads, print ads in magazines and newspapers, TV spots and promotional images on its website that are covered by the ruling. If it fails to comply, the court will impose a daily fine of €100 (roughly $130) for each image that is still up.