If ACEA was a private club there would be no question about its decision to bar Toyota Motor Europe from joining. Clubs set their own rules.
But ACEA -- the association of European automakers -- is a trade body and its primary task is lobbying regulators and legislators on behalf of the European auto industry.
ACEA calls its constituency "the engine of Europe" because of its economic and social importance. But is Toyota -- which this year will build 800,000 vehicles and powertrains, design cars and conduct research in Europe -- really not a part of this engine?
Those who oppose Toyota joining ACEA argue that most of Toyota's profits go back to Japan. But the same argument could be made for US-based General Motors and Ford, both of which have been ACEA members since it was formed in 1991.
Ford and GM were kept out of ACEA's predecessor group, the Comite des Constructeurs d'automobiles du Marche Commun (CCMC).
But when European automakers wanted a united voice to lobby for favorable terms to end restrictions on Japanese car imports, ACEA was formed and GM and Ford were invited into the new group.
Today, ACEA wants to get automakers some relief from tough emissions and pedestrian safety regulations. These are issues that affect Toyota too.
An ACEA that includes Toyota has additional clout. And it has the appearance of representing the entire industry in a fair way. Otherwise, it just looks like a special interest lobby.
Toyota is so big in Europe that ignoring it is more dangerous than having it in the club.