I think that I shall never see a tweet as backhanded about a tree.

In this age of social media, companies often find themselves walking that fine line of trying to make interesting and engaging posts while also keeping things clean in order to protect their brand image. Just take this message that was posted to Twitter (or “X”, I guess) by a Daihatsu dealership in Ehime Prefecture.

“From the Shikokucho Dealership,
Today we would like to show you the garden of our Shikokucho Dealership of Ehime Daihatsu. [tree emoji]
Large trees stand along the road in front of the dealership. [winky kaomoji]
They change in appearance with each season and sometimes the leaves can be troublesome, but they are soothing to look at. [tree emoji]
Please use these trees as a landmark to find our dealership. [happy kaomoji]

Attached to the tweet (Xeet?) were photos of the Daihatsu dealership’s trees. While they weren’t the most majestic of trees, they did line the front of the business like the post described.

▼ They can also be seen on Google Street View.

It was certainly nice of them to take the time to acknowledge their trees and the tweet even yielded over 11,000 likes before it was taken down (Xaken down?). The reason for the removal was likely that the head honchos at Daihatsu HQ disapproved of what was actually a thinly veiled dig at their competitors, used-car dealership Bigmotor.

Anyone who’s been following the news in Japan will likely have at least caught a bit of the avalanche of scandals surrounding this major chain, with each one appearing more outlandish than the last.

It started with accusations of insurance fraud in that Bigmotor was inflating the costs of repairing vehicles. It later emerged that this wasn’t simply a matter of cooking the books like some other companies might get caught doing. Employees were reportedly instructed in elaborate ways to simulate damage, such as using a golf ball in a sock to recreate hail damage.

▼ This video shows a Bigmotor employee instructing how to puncture a tire in a way that looks natural when reported to insurance companies. “Think about how it looks in a photo,” he says at the start.

The scale of fraud that is believed to have taken place over the past five years is said to be “outrageous” and insurance companies are currently trying to unravel it all. Meanwhile, other accusations of harassment against staff, as well as coercion of subcontractors, have also been steadily emerging.

But perhaps the most cartoonishly absurd evil deed allegedly done by Bigmotor is the intentional killing of trees along public roads in front of their dealerships. Since at least 2022, urban planners around Japan have found roadside trees dying en masse in front of Bigmotor lots. An analysis in Ota City, Gunma Prefecture, found traces of herbicide at the scene.

The theory is that Bigmotor wanted the trees gone because they were obstructing the view of the vehicles for sale, but the company had initially denied this, saying that it is up to individual dealerships to maintain their lots. However, they added that the possibility existed that herbicides may have accidentally been used too close to public trees, where weeds should have been pulled instead.

Despite the denial, many people online have been using Google Street View’s “See more dates” function to find several Bigmotor locations where there were once trees but now aren’t. The Street View below is often brought up online as evidence of Bigmotor employees being caught in the act, though in their defense, they appear to be doing normal maintenance with rakes and tongs. Nevertheless, this scene is from 2017, and in current Street View images those trees are now all gone.

Following resignations at the top executive levels earlier this week, Bigmotor has since changed its stance and announced that after an investigation they found that some trees probably had died as a result of their herbicides. They also declared that they would work with local governments towards replacing lost trees and maintaining existing ones.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see how Daihatsu’s love of trees might be seen as a snarky dig at Bigmotor. And considering how easy it is to look up the botanical records of the area surrounding every dealership in the country, it’s understandable that the company doesn’t want to rattle a potential hornets’ nest.

Online sleuths have already uncovered a Netz (Toyota) dealership on Street View with disappearing trees just after opening, and Daihatsu is a subsidiary of Toyota. That’s not to say anything nefarious necessarily took place there, but social media managers in glass dealerships probably should be careful when throwing tweets or Xeets.

Source: TV Asahi, Friday Digital, FNN Online Prime, NHK News Web, Big Motor, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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