CHICAGO -- Tired of getting sand kicked in its face by pickups from Ford, General Motors and Dodge, the Toyota Tundra was sent to the gym.
What emerges for the 2007 model year is a bigger, beefier pickup, with styling that takes its cues from the FTX concept truck from 2004.
The 2007 Tundra was unveiled Thursday morning at the Chicago Auto Show.
When it goes on sale about a year from now, here's what buyers will find:
Toyota will build the redesigned Tundra at plants in Princeton, Ind., and San Antonio.
The restyled Tundra is Toyota's third attempt to inch into the full-size truck market -- a category dominated by Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Dodge, a unit of DaimlerChrysler.
Together, the automakers sell more than nine out of every 10 trucks in the full-size space, according to research firm J.D. Power and Associates, and those sales represent a big chunk of profits.
"It's an important vehicle," said Matt Vicenzi, a J.D. Power analyst.
Jim Press, the head of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. agreed. At the world premier of the new Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show, he said it represented "the most important product announcement we've ever had."
Toyota's first two runs at the full-size pickup space -- the T-100 and the first generation Tundra -- failed to generate the sales that Toyota had hoped for, in part, because of perceptions they were smaller and underpowered.
Also, many blue-collar truck owners eschew foreign ones.
But Toyota's unwillingness to give up has caused a lot of anxiety in Detroit, where the automaker's tenacity has paid off in other vehicle segments. Since truck sales are likely to hold at current levels, according to J.D. Power estimates, the segment is becoming a zero-sum game.
"It's a concern," said J.D. Power's Vicenzi. "I wouldn't say it keeps the Big Three awake at night. But it's a concern. They tend to be very profitable vehicles."
In an effort to get it right, Toyota sent designers and engineers into the field to drive trucks for long periods or to live alongside people who drove them for a living, Press said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]