Toyota Revamps Tundra to Gain High-End Pickup Sales

Toyota Motor Corp. reworked the styling and marketing strategy of its full-size Tundra pickup, seeking increased high-end truck sales after falling short of an earlier goal of boosting work-truck deliveries.

The 2014 Tundra goes on sale in September with a revised exterior and interior, quieter cabin and smoother ride, Toyota said yesterday at the Chicago Auto Show. A new version called the 1794 Edition will give Tundra two luxury variations, including a reworked Platinum model that now costs more than $48,000 with options, said Greg Thome, a company spokesman.

Toyota is responding to “significant growth” in demand for full-size trucks above $40,000, Bob Carter, the automaker’s U.S. senior vice president, said in an interview at the show. Ford Motor Co. has done well in that niche, he said.

“We didn’t have any offering and we had a very loyal and adamant base saying: ‘Can you give me a little bit more?’” Carter said. “And that’s what this truck is about.”

When Toyota showed its second-generation Tundra in Chicago in February 2006, the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s goal was a bigger share of the work- and fleet-truck market led by Ford and General Motors Co. Its goal to sell more than 200,000 Tundras annually was stymied by buyer loyalty to the U.S. pickups and Tundra’s arrival in 2007 amid rising fuel prices and ahead of the recession that decimated truck sales.

Rising Demand

U.S. full-size pickup sales grew 9.2 percent last year to 1.64 million trucks, according to Autodata Corp. Ford led the segment with a 39 percent share on sales of 645,316 F-series trucks. GM followed with deliveries of 575,497 Silverado and Sierra pickups. Chrysler Group LLC, majority owned by Fiat SpA, sold 293,363 Rams.

Toyota sold 101,621 Tundras last year, down from a peak of 196,555 in 2007. Toyota isn’t providing a volume goal or prices for the new truck today, Thome said.

U.S. full-size truck sales will top 1.7 million this year, up more than 50 percent from 2009’s low of 1.1 million, according to forecasts by researchers IHS Automotive and LMC Automotive.

“In 2012 with the economy growing in many areas, the segment exceeded 1.6 million units and we see it hitting 1.8 million by 2015,” Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division, said yesterday in Chicago. Tundra sales growth should outpace the full-size truck segment this year, Fay said, without elaborating.

Five Grades

The new Tundra will continue to be available in three cab configurations and with either two- or four-wheel-drive systems, the company said. Grade offerings expand to five, and include the base-model SR work truck; SR5; Limited; and top-end Platinum and 1794 Edition trucks, Toyota said.

“The biggest sales increase with the full-size truck market has been in the luxury truck segment,” said Mark Williams, editor of the enthusiast website

Platinum is the high-end urban Tundra, while the 1794 Edition is a premium rural-use truck, Thome said. The 1794 name refers to the founding year of the San Antonio ranch where Toyota built its pickup plant.

Tundra is a U.S.-developed product. Engineering was done in Michigan, the exterior and interior were designed in California, and the truck will be built solely in Texas, Toyota said.

Customer Feedback

The changes to the Tundra were “inspired by customer feedback requesting a more chiseled exterior and refined interior,” Fay said.

The truck’s bigger grille and raised hood height gives Tundra a “stronger, more industrial” look, Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s Calty design studio, said yesterday in a webcast from Chicago.

The trucks will use the same three engines as in the current 2013 model: a 4-liter V-6 for the base versions; a 4.6-liter V-8; and a 5.7-liter V-8 for the higher-end trucks, Toyota said. Thome said there’s no plan for a diesel powertrain, an option offered by U.S.-based rivals.

Tundras with the 5.7-liter engine can carry more than 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) and tow over 10,000 pounds, Fay said. In terms of pricing, “Tundra will offer the best overall package in the half-ton segment,” he said without elaborating.

The company determined the current Tundra’s chassis and engines remain competitive with those of competitors, Fay said.

“A lot of the feedback was that the 5.7-liter engine is very capable,” he said. “Real-world capabilities are on par with or better than some of the competitors.”

Toyota’s design for the outgoing Tundra wasn’t conservative enough for many work-truck buyers, said Williams, who moderated a panel on the new Tundra today in Chicago with Fay, Tundra Chief Engineer Mike Sweers and Hunter.

“Especially for fleet buyers, maybe the exterior design of Tundra made them a little uncomfortable,” Williams said in a phone interview this week. “Even so, if the economic slide hadn’t happened in 2008 and 2009, things might have been different as far as Toyota getting more sales.”

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