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Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Toyota advert revs 'em up

Road action groups say this billboard is dangerous. Photo / Doug Sherring
Road action groups say this billboard is dangerous. Photo / Doug Sherring

Road safety campaigners and the family of a young car crash victim have attacked the advertising campaign for a sporty new car which features the prominent slogan "May Cause Slide Effects".

Large posters promoting the high-performance Toyota GT86 have been placed at prime sites around the country. The adverts show the flash coupe apparently sliding on the road.

Critics have branded the billboards "irresponsible" and believe they promote the kind of dangerous driving usually associated with boy racers.

Brent Laurenson's 18-year-old son Nathan was killed in a crash near Plimmerton, north of Wellington, in July 2009. He was a passenger in a souped-up Subaru Impreza driven by 22-year-old James Cupit. Cupit lost control of the vehicle while speeding along a winding, rural road in the rain before sliding over the centre line and fishtailing into another car.

"New Zealand has one of the worst road crash records in the world so for Toyota to be promoting a car in this way is crazy," Nathan's dad Brent, from Blenheim, said.

"It is pretty obvious they are trying to get the message across that this vehicle is good for sliding at high speed.

"Youngsters may not be able to afford a car like that when it is new but it is just the sort of vehicle they go for when they become available at decent second-hand prices.

"It feels like a kick in the face for our family."

On Friday night in Dunedin, more than 1000 young car enthusiasts travelled in a 400-car convoy and there was one accident where a young driver ran off after nearly hitting pedestrians.

Road safety charity Brake also expressed concern over the billboards.

Another version of the poster appears to have a "censored" sticker emblazoned on it, issued by the "fun police".

"Using pictures, slogans and catchphrases that can be seen as advocating risky or irresponsible driver behaviour is not acceptable," said Brake spokeswoman Caroline Perry.

"In the past, advertisements for vehicles promoted driving as an exhilarating experience. Recent advertising has, on the whole, moved towards focusing on the practical and safety features of cars and it is pleasing to see this change.

"However, this particular advertising campaign is a step in the wrong direction."

Toyota New Zealand said the company had not received any complaints.

"We of course do not condone boy racing, but this particular car has a strong heritage of drifting and that is why we chose to use the billboards," Toyota's general manager of marketing Neeraj Lala said. "A key point is the shot on the poster was taken on a racing track in a controlled environment."

The car was proving popular with buyers.

- Herald on Sunday

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