CHICAGO -- Toyota boss Jim Press admits that many Toyota customers regard the current Tundra pickup as a "city truck." And its buttoned-down looks turn few heads in Marlboro country.
Now Toyota wants real truckers to know that the redesigned 2007 Tundra is not for wimps. But convincing them will be another matter.
This will be Toyota's third try at the full-sized market. Toyota met its own modest expectations for the T100 and the first-generation Tundra. But Toyota's ambitions are much bigger for the redesigned Tundra, and so are the challenges.
The redesigned pickup, with more power, more towing capacity and a brawny design, is scheduled to go on sale around Jan. 1, 2007. It was unveiled last week at the Chicago Auto Show.
If the redesigned pickup lacks appeal among U.S.-brand truck buyers, it won't be for want of trying by Toyota's product planners. The pickup will be "the biggest, boldest, badass truck in Toyota history," proclaimed Press, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., at the show.
Clearly, the design is impressive. Its massive chrome-trimmed snout, wide stance and fat wheel arches give it a bulldoggish attitude that the current Tundra can only dream of.
A 5.7-liter V-8 boosts towing capacity to more than 10,000 pounds -- big-league numbers in the full-sized pickup game. That engine will be teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The redesigned pickup is 10 inches longer than its predecessor. It will come in more than 30 variations of powertrain, body style and trim, double those of the current Tundra's lineup.
Toyota will offer three engines: the 5.7-liter V-8, a 4.0-liter V-6 and a 4.7-liter V-8. Customers can choose from three cargo bed lengths, three trim levels and three cabs.
Pickup owners are famously loyal to their brands. Prying them loose will be a challenge.
Toyota says it isn't going directly after the hard-core domestic competition. It plans to chase customers who have a Toyota car in their garage, along with a pickup from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC or Dodge.
Press says the lack of a proper full-sized truck causes the "biggest outflow" of Toyota customers to other brands. "We're losing our own customers. All we want to do is keep them in the family."
Owners of the full-sized Nissan Titan are another likely target. Larry Dominique, director of trucks and SUVs for the Nissan North America Inc. product planning office, said he welcomes the newcomer.
"From my perspective, competition is always good. Stimulating more interest in Japanese brands can help us and Toyota."
Toyota won't be challenging the U.S. makers for volume leadership in full-sized pickups.
It plans to make about 200,000 Tundras in the first full year of production, up from about 120,000 for the current model. Ford sold 901,463 F-series pickups in 2005.
But Toyota has the capacity to grow.
Daniel Sieger, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc., said a new assembly plant for the Tundra in San Antonio has the capacity to make 150,000. That could expand to 200,000, he said. If the plant in Princeton, Ind., makes about 100,000, Toyota could assemble 300,000 Tundras.
You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at [email protected]