The world's largest carmaker selling a single vehicle to a country of 82 million people is not usually a recipe for controversy.
But that's what Toyota is facing after it issued an apology and revealed on October 24 that the Japanese car manufacturer's Indian subsidiary, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private, sold one vehicle to the Iranian Embassy in New Delhi in early 2017.
The apology has provoked an angry backlash in Tehran and highlighted the caution of multinational companies wanting to deal with Iran two years after a landmark deal to lift many international sanctions on the Islamic republic in exchange for halting sensitive nuclear work.
Toyota's actions have fueled accusations in Tehran that Washington is pressuring foreign companies into avoiding business with Iran to effectively keep sanctions in place.
"It seems that America intends to scare international companies that are willing to cooperate with Iran, threatening them with open hostility and forcing them to apologize," Iran's hard-line Javan news website, which is affiliated with Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a branch of the armed forces, argued on October 24.
The reformist Shargh Daily appeared to double down on that sentiment, with editor Sadra Mohaghegh accusing the company of double standards by not responding similarly when Toyota cars are used for terrorist attacks in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
European Commercial Dealings
Ever since the 2015 nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), officials in Tehran have also accused Washington of pressuring Europeans not to do business in Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to increase pressure on Iran, assailing Tehran as a "rogue regime" and threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal reached under his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump on October 13 declined to certify Iran's compliance under a U.S. law tied to the JCPOA. Accusing Tehran of violating the "spirit" of the deal, Trump said he would ask Congress to strengthen a U.S. law to put additional pressure on Tehran.
Trump said in an interview aired on October 22 that he was not against France or Germany doing business with Iran.
"When they buy those things, it is a little harder," Trump said of French and German commercial dealings with Iran. "I told them just keep making money. Don't worry. We don't need you on this one."