Toyota Motor Corp. said it plans to start exporting cars to Israel this fall, joining four smaller Japanese automakers already doing business with Tel Aviv.
The plan was announced as the Japanese government was reported to be changing its Middle East policy by seeking warmer relations with Israel. Japan, heavily dependent on Middle East oil, for decades has favored Arab countries.Toyota spokesman Yoshihara Ta-teishi said the plan calls for shipments of at least 5,000 cars a year to Tel Aviv through Israel's Union Motors Ltd.
"The plan has been under study for a long time. The company originally wanted to start the business last year but was forced to postpone it due to the Gulf situation," he said.
The volume of exports is expected to grow since the Israeli market, currently estimated at up to 100,000 vehicles a year, has shown a trend of rapid expansion.
The New York-based International Jewish Congress has criticized Toyota and other major Japanese automakers in the past for allegedly refusing to do business directly with Israel under apparent pressure from Arab countries.
The four Japanese automakers already exporting vehicles to Israel are Fuji Heavy Industies, Mitsubishi Motors, Daihatsu Motor and Honda Motor. They exported 36,400 vehicles to Tel Aviv last year, a more than threefold increase from 1989.