Toyota sold 126,529 Tundras last year, a record for the truck. But a surprisingly small number of those buyers were conquested from the Big 3.
Of those who bought a Tundra, just 8 percent traded in a Ford F-150, and fewer than 6 percent left a Chevrolet Silverado, according to Toyota data. By contrast, 30 percent of Tundra purchasers traded in another Tundra or a compact Tacoma pickup. Many more customers were import-brand loyalists who would not buy a big truck unless Toyota made it.
"We've had some success in appealing to traditional domestic owners," says Bastien. "But it has been limited because body and engine configurations were expanding faster than we were able to introduce them."
In the case of the popular four-door configuration, Toyota was late to the party and missed a big opportunity to lure domestic truck owners when it finally arrived in late 2003.
Toyota found that more than half the customers who rejected the Tundra said it did not offer the configuration they needed or that the dealer did not have the right model in inventory.
Another major reason for rejection was the Tundra's low towing capacity. The new model, with more configurations and higher towing capacity, will address both those concerns, Bastien says.
Toyota also loses some rural customers because it lacks a nearby dealership. Toyota has about 1,200 dealerships, compared with 3,800 for Ford, 4,100 for Chevrolet and 2,900 for Dodge. Toyota is adding rural satellite dealerships to appeal to farmers and ranchers. But that plan is expected to add a couple of dozen stores at most.
Then there's the matter of overcoming generations of brand loyalty to Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, observes Leonard Northcutt, who owns Toyota and GM dealerships in Enid, Okla.
"There is a large cultural difference between Toyota and GM customers," Northcutt says. His Tundra sales are predominantly to Toyota loyalists.
Toyota builds the Tundra in Indiana and Texas. But, Northcutt says, "Buy American" sympathies are less important than product attributes.
More than half of domestic truck buyers looked only at replacing their existing truck with the same nameplate, according to the 2005 New Vehicle Customer Study by automotive consulting firm Maritz Research. About 78 percent disposed of a domestic vehicle when buying a domestic-brand full-sized truck.
On the other hand, Toyota is encouraged by Tundra owners' loyalty. Since the launch of the four-dour Double Cab, 43 percent of Tundra buyers were Tundra owners. For a vehicle with a short sales history, Tundra is competitive with the Ford F-150 at 54 percent loyalty and Chevrolet Silverado at 46 percent, according to Toyota data.