Toyota Motor Corp. is preparing to launch a series of trucks using composite plastics, also known as sheet molding compounds, for at least part of the bed, beginning with the 2005 Tacoma X-Runner.
The company downplayed the use of composites in its introduction of the vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show, but it marked the first public display of a range of vehicles using plastics in the bed.
Production on the 2005 Tacoma is to begin this year.
ThyssenKrupp Automotive AG's plastics division - formerly called Budd Co. - has built a plant in Tijuana, Mexico, to make inner truck beds for Toyota from sheet molding compound.
Toyota has not said whether the truck will use composites for exterior panels.
Toyota's use of sheet molding compounds will mark an expansion of composites in pickup beds.
Ford Motor Co. uses sheet molding compounds for the bed of its Explorer Sport Trac.
General Motors uses mostly reinforced injection molding for the beds of its Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT trucks.
GM offered composite truck boxes as an option on Silverado models, but has canceled that program.
Rhoda Miel is a staff reporter for Plastics News, a sister publication to Automotive News.