PRINCETON, Ind. - Ford and General Motors and DaimlerChrysler can keep their sales. We'll capture the newcomers to the full-sized pickup market.
That's Toyota's 'they'll-feel-no-pain' attitude as it prepares its biggest pickup ever, the Tundra.
Conquest sales are not a large part of the plan, said Don Esmond, vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. Owners of full-sized pickups, after all, are fiercely loyal to their trucks.
The crystal ball, at least for now, allows Toyota to take that stance. U.S. sales of full-sized pickups will surpass a record 1.9 million this year. And they are forecast to top 2 million in 2000, according to WEFA Group, a forecasting firm in Eddystone, Pa.
Esmond spoke at the new $1.2 billion Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana Inc. assembly plant here last week as the first Tundra was completed.
The Tundra will be priced competitively against full-sized, V-8-powered pickups that sell for $23,000, said Kevin Higgins, market planning manager for the Tundra.
The Tundra will be bigger than the pickup it replaces, the T100. That truck, subject to a 25 percent tariff applied to imported pickups, peaked at 37,926 sales in 1996.
In May, each U.S. Toyota dealership should have six Tundras, Higgins said.
Volume production of the Tundra on Princeton's first shift is scheduled for the second week of February. A second shift, planned for July, will boost production to 107,000 Tundras annually.
A to-be-named sport-utility based on the Tundra platform will arrive in the 2001 model year. Production of the Tundra gradually will be scaled back as sport-utility production increases. By the 2002 model year, the Princeton plant will produce 88,000 Tundras and 60,000 sport-utilities annually, said Don Dees, general manager of manufacturing at the plant.
The Tundra will be available in two body styles: a two-door cab with an eight-foot bed, and a four-door cab with a 6.5-foot bed. The four-door will have two reverse-opening access doors.
Tundra buyers may select a 3.4-liter V-6 or a 4.7-liter, dual-overhead-cam V-8.
Engines and transmissions will be shipped from Japan. Exterior body panels will be stamped on-site. Front door panels and the instrument panel are injection molded at the plant as well.
Esmond said Toyota has no plans to export the Tundra beyond Canada.