Toyota was on a roll in 2003 when it decided to deepen its investment in U.S. production of full-sized Tundra pickups. Though not yet a true size-competitor of the Ford F-150, the Tundra was selling briskly and consumers were asking for a beefier version to compete head-on with the tough, roomy pickups from Detroit.
The U.S. sales organization had been pushing Japan for a bigger Tundra for years.
Getting Japanese decision makers to understand just how different Toyota's trucks were from Detroit's took some doing, recalls Don Esmond, who was head of Toyota Division at the time.
"You just don't see any full-sized trucks in Japan," says Esmond.
Executives on both sides of the Pacific knew Texas consumers were key to the success of a full-sized pickup workhorse, since 20 percent of all big pickup sales occur in Texas.