Toyota expects extended boom in big pickups
CHICAGO -- Toyota is buoyant about the full-sized pickup market as it prepares to bring out a revamped Tundra this fall.
"It was the segment hit hardest by the recession," said Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales' senior vice president of automotive operations.
Sales in the segment were about 1.6 million in 2012 after peaking at just less than 2.5 million in 2004 and 2005.
"We went from 2.5 million to down to 1.1 million," he said. "But we see the market going up to about 1.8 million and stabilizing for the next 24 to 36 months. A lot of that has to do with fuel prices."
Both work-truck and personal-use buyers are stepping back into the market after delaying purchases, he said. And a couple of trends are emerging.
While sales of standard-cab models continue to decline, crew cab sales are taking off. And even though customers delayed purchases, they're choosing higher-end option packages now that they have jumped back in the market.
"You can put Lexus interiors in pickups, but the customer has got to want it," he said. "There has to be consumer demand, and clearly it is there."
Toyota remains bullish on the compact pickup segment, where its Tacoma is dominant. Ram and Ford have dropped out of the segment.
Carter said work-truck buyers have returned to the market faster in some places than in others: first in states such as Texas and Oklahoma, followed by Sun Belt states such as Florida and California. The upper Midwest was next, while the Northeast has recovered more slowly.
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