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Toyota scraps Tokyo Olympics ads in Japan, despite being banner sponsor

With support for holding the games low among Japan's citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Toyota doesn't want to wade any deeper in.

Toyota's stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Toyota will not air any ads during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, set to kick off this week, despite being the games' headline sponsor. Reuters reported Monday the automaker pulled back on ads and plastering its time across the events as support among the Japanese people dipped to new lows for holding the event amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo, Japan, remains under a state of emergency due to the pandemic.

A Toyota USA spokesperson said in a statement, "The media plan for Toyota's Olympic and Paralympic global ad campaign is managed by individual countries and regions. In Japan, the local Toyota office previously decided not to air the campaign out of sensitivity to the COVID-19 situation in that country. In the US, the campaign has already been shown nationally and will continue to be shown as planned with our media partners during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020." 

In addition, CEO Akio Toyoda will not attend the opening ceremony as once planned, Reuters reported. The publication cited new data from a local Japanese newspaper that surveyed nearly 1,500 people and found 55% did not want the games going forward. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they doubt officials will keep COVID-19 infections under control.

The Tokyo Olympics were meant to be a real showcase, not only for Japan, but for Toyota. The automaker was supposed to reveal a new battery-electric car amid the events, and readied electric, self-driving shuttles for athletes to bring them from the Olympic Village to various sites. It's not clear if these vehicles will still be in use amid the pandemic, but the current situation certainly rained on Toyota's showcase of new technology.