Humbled Toyota rolls out new Tundra
When Toyota's hefty new Tundra pickup went on sale in 2007, the Japanese automaker trumpeted it as a game-changer that would challenge Detroit for the only part of the market it still dominated.
“The truck that's changing it all,” was the tagline from an ad that featured the beefy Tundra pulling a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep ramp.
But in six years on the market, the Tundra hasn't changed much of anything. It did teach Toyota that unlike car buyers, American pickup owners are still fiercely loyal to their Fords, Chevrolets and Rams.
Toyota revealed a redesigned Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show, this time without lofty sales goals or talk of breaking into Detroit's lucrative stronghold.
The Tundra comes with an aggressive aerodynamic exterior, an all-new interior and a long list of practical and luxury features. But the choice of three engines is unchanged, and the company seems happy just to protect the Tundra's 5 percent share of the U.S. pickup market — especially when pickup sales are rising as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.
“They'll be part of the recovery,” says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. “I don't see them capturing any share from the Detroit guys.”
Before the 2007 redesign, the Tundra didn't measure up to the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Chrysler's Ram. It was smaller and didn't have the powerful engine needed to tow trailers or haul heavy loads. Sales in 2006— a huge year for trucks — were just under 125,000, respectable but only a fraction of the nearly 800,000 F-Series trucks sold by Ford.
But with the new truck, Toyota had set its sights on Detroit. It had a brawnier look with larger bed and a big 5.7-liter, 381-horsepower engine. Toyota executives brazenly predicted sales of 200,000 a year, almost doubling sales of the existing truck. In 2007, Toyota came close to the goal, hitting almost 197,000. But as Detroit updated its pickups with powerful engines, new transmissions and innovative features, Tundra sales fell, hitting a low of 83,000 in 2011.
Once truck buyers choose a brand, they tend to stick with it. That gives companies such as Ford — which started building pickups in 1925 — an advantage, since that loyalty has built up over several generations. Last year, 45 percent of F-150 buyers traded in a Ford pickup, according to Edmunds.com. By contrast, 38 percent of Tundra buyers traded in Toyota trucks. But since Ford sells more than six times as many pickups as Toyota, the Ford trade-in numbers are much higher.
Jim Lentz, Toyota's highest-ranking U.S. executive, concedes that it's doubtful Toyota will pick up market share with the new truck. “We are servicing a niche within full-size trucks with Tundra, and it does very well. It's been the perennial quality leader in the segment,” he said. “I think we're very comfortable with it in that segment.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reliable family car feels upscale
- Stocks snap 4-day losing streak; corporate earnings concerns linger
- Pittsburgh angles to keep Heinz headquarters in merger
- Stop foreign dumping, U.S. Steel CEO Longhi tells Congress
- Michigan man takes Heinz to court over Dip & Squeeze ketchup packet
- U.S. Steel to idle Illinois plant, shed up to 2,080 more workers
- Heinz merging with Kraft in mega-deal; headquarters to stay in Pittsburgh
- Series of recalls could hurt Giant Eagle’s reputation
- Pa. Gas & Electric agrees to $6.8 million settlement of polar vortex claims
- One secret Facebook doesn’t want you to know
- U.S. shale drillers try to keep costs competitive with oil from abroad