LOS ANGELES — Toyota executives say they couldn't care less that the Tundra full-sized pickup fell 3,445 units short of their 200,000-unit sales goal.
But what should have them concerned is whether Tundra sales can grow enough to reach Toyota's goal of 300,000 by 2010.
Toyota announced the 300,000-unit target when it launched the pickup a year ago. At the time, executives said they expected to reach that goal by the end of the decade. But that was before the subprime credit crunch, housing market swoon and oil price surge.
Given the soft market for pickups, it seems likely that Toyota will be left with some excess capacity this year at its truck assembly plants in San Antonio and Princeton, Ind.
Those two plants now have the capacity to produce 280,000 Tundras annually. Toyota could push that to 300,000-plus by cutting production of the Sequoia SUV at Princeton.
Toyota expects Tundra sales will be in the low 200,000s this year, predicts Bob Carter, Toyota Division's general manager."We know the segment is going to be tough," Carter says. "There's a lot of headwind."
Industry sales of full-sized pickups are likely to fall short of the levels achieved three or four years ago, Carter acknowledged. Nevertheless, he predicts Tundra sales will meet its sales targets. "There is no cause for alarm," Carter says. "We are on plan."
But much of Tundra's sales growth will result from a big inventory for the entire year rather than growing market demand. In 2007, a slow rollout of popular models meant dealers were undersupplied from January through June.
Carter has noted that Toyota had to use incentives to support Tundra sales earlier than he wished, but market conditions forced the automaker's hand. How long will it take for Tundra sales to top 300,000 units? Carter was evasive.
"We have 44 Tundra models now," he said. "In the future, that segment requires even a broader lineup than we have today."