Milestones – 40 Years of Toyota Auto Body – Thanks to a so-called “Chicken Tax”

It’s ironic that Ford Motor, one of the Detroit Three companies that lobbied the Johnson Administration for protection against imported light trucks, now does minor stateside work on the Turkish-built Transit Connect to escape paying the chicken tax.

Toyota Auto Body California – commonly TABC – is now 40 years old. It was Toyota’s first manufacturing facility in the U.S. and came about because of a chicken tax. The tax was the result of a trade war between the U.S. and France and Germany, and the U.S. imposed a 25% tax on imported light trucks initially targeted at Volkswagen in 1963 because our alleged allies were blocking imports of cheap factory-farm produced American chickens with high tariffs – thus the chicken tax name.

The simple workaround at what was then Atlas Fabricators in 1972 was to produce Toyota truck beds for pickup trucks imported into the U.S. from Japan, a strategy also used by other importers.  Two years later, Toyota bought the operation and renamed it TABC, which become its first manufacturing investment in the U.S.

In one of the ironies of history, Ford Motor, part of the then dominant Detroit Three companies that lobbied the Johnson Administration for protection against imported light trucks, now uses the same tax dodge by performing minor work on its Turkish-built Transit Connect van outside the incoming port of Baltimore to lower its tax rate to 2.5%. (So much for the Obama Administration’s pledge to eliminate needless government regulations. The chicken tax stands after all these years. As to Ford’s conduct, well make up your own mind.) Ultimately, the Japanese Big Three – Toyota, Nissan and Honda – built plants in North America, much to the regret of the Detroit Three, who have been losing market share to them for decades.

Today, Toyota at TABC employs 470 people, and its claimed investment is more than $270 million. TABC now produces stamped and welded parts, steering columns and catalytic converters for a number of Toyota’s vehicle assembly plants in North America and Japan. TABC also tests, inspects and repackages end-of-life hybrid vehicle batteries from the wildly successful and still Japanese-built Prius.

To commemorate its 40th anniversary as a member of the Long Beach community, TABC donated to non-profit organizations:

$35,000 gift through joint sponsorship with Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. and Toyota Financial Services: California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ)

Toyota vehicles: Children Today (Toyota Sienna), United Friends of the Children (Toyota Sienna)

$5,000 gift: Academic Uprise, American Red Cross, Assistance League of Long Beach, Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach, Conservation Corps of Long Beach, Special Olympics of Southern California

Recipients of $5,000 Toyota scholarships gift: California State University Long Beach, Long Beach City College

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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