|Current Tundra (left) gives way to redesigned model. (Photo:Tudor Hampton/ENR)|
Toyota has set the gold standard for today¹s passenger cars, and now, it wants to do the same for light-duty trucks.
Next year, its largest pickup ever will follow the latest fleet of full-size options coming from Japan, including the Nissan Titan and Honda Ridgeline.
Toyota has invested heavily in this latest project. The battle between East and West will soon be fought on construction sites across the U.S, and the newest weapon will be the redesigned Tundra, which hits the street early next year.
Ford, GM and Dodge, the holy trinity of 1/2-ton pickups, aren¹t likely to be dethroned anytime soon. But Toyota is starting to hit the right marketing chords with truck customers, and from what I¹ve seen so far, the Tundra sings louder than any of the manufacturer¹s previous designs.
I¹ll have a full review of this truck in a few months, but for those of you who are curious, here¹s what I know so far:
Tundra will continue to be built in America. Units will be assembled in an existing plant in Indiana and a new, $850-million factory in San Antonio, which will have an annual capacity of 200,000 Tundra pickups, about double what Toyota currently produces.
Texas is serious truck country. It really is the heart of the market. Putting a plant in this state, which sucks up about one of seven full-size pickups sold in America, is about as bold a move as slipping your partner habanero hot sauce. The Texas plant is slated to open its doors in November.
Not only is this truck physically big, it is a big deal for Toyota. The manufacturer says the “cross-departmental” launch will be akin to building the Lexus and Scion brands in previous years. And this is just one model.
At the moment, dealers are upgrading their showrooms and shops to accommodate the larger vehicles. As with all construction equipment, the ability to service trucks with speed will be key to their acceptance on the job site.
Toyota says the beefier truck will come in three cab configurations, three trim levels and three engine sizes, including a 5.7-liter V8 that will have the truck pulling “well over” 10,000 lbs, enough to compete with the big boys and possibly outperform some of them.
Available with two and four-wheel drive, it will stand about 10 in. longer, 5 in. taller and 4 in. in wider than the current Tundra. The chassis will contain 30% higher tensile-strength steel, says the manufacturer.
People looking for a work truck should find a better match than previous models. The manufacturer this month is sharing specifications with the National Truck Equipment Association, so aftermarket suppliers, such as tool-box makers, will be ready for the roll-out.
Toyota also plans to offer an optional 8-ft long-bed and up to a 165-in. wheelbase, the truck's longest. All the 30-or-so possible Tundra sizes will have door handles that users can open with work gloves and adjustable headrests that accommodate hard hats (cowboy hats, too). A two-tier glove box will hold a standard Thermos, while a center console will be able to gulp down a laptop, hanging files and other gear.
Sound like a winner?
If the new Tundra is priced right, provides good fuel economy, rides solid and has a generous range of options, it no doubt will help Toyota build a stronger image with what it calls the “true trucker.”
We'll find out next year.
Of course, no matter how good it looks and drives, tearing buyers away from trusted, American brands will be a tough sell. Truck owners, including construction users, are some of the most loyal buyers around.
The key to their hearts (and purchase orders) is showing that you can build a truck that will be easy to maintain, age gracefully and hold up over the long haul. Wimps need not apply.