Will Toyota be kicked out of Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez? We have full details on the battle brewing in South America.

President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has announced that Toyota could be kicked out of that country if the Japanese automaker persists in not building a replacement to the Land Cruiser 70 4x4 in Venezuela.  Chavez believes the all-terrain vehicle is critical for providing transportation in less-developed parts of the country.

Toyota responded by saying the automaker had already requested permission to import the Land Cruiser well before Chavez' comments.  The company says the Venezuelan government has not yet ruled on the import license application.  Venezuelan production of the Land Cruiser 70 halted in 2007, and the government had been informed in advance of the model's cancellation.

Chavez made the threatening comments last Wednesday at an event in Caracas.  Believing that his government must force Toyota to produce "rustic" models, he said, "And if they don't, then they should leave and we'll bring another company in. The Chinese want to come and they make 'rustic' models," according to published reports.

If Toyota were kicked out, Chavez would likely authorize the confiscation of Toyota factories in Venezuela, possibly using the facilities to create a new national automaker.  Since Chavez became president in 1999 he has nationalized the domestic energy and oil industries.

"Companies who come here to set up must be ready to transfer technology to us," Chavez said.

"If they don't want to, they should go away. I invite them to pick up their things and go."

Toyota has asked for diplomatic assistance from the Japanese government, saying Chavez' office never once contacted the automaker to discuss the issue.

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