"It was a big investment, no doubt about it," says Tom Belt, general sales manager for Toyota of Escondido.
Belt had hoped to sell 100 Tundras a month, but the store is barely hitting half that number.
"Would we do it again, knowing where the market is? Any prudent businessman would wait," Belt says.
Toyota had hoped to sell more than 200,000 Tundras this year on its way to 300,000 in the near future. But Toyota was already running behind that pace when it halted Tundra production for three months starting Aug. 8.
Toyota won't say how many stores built stand-alone truck facilities. All dealers were told they needed to crank up truck service and sales operations in anticipation of the new Tundra's higher volumes. But company officials deny pushing dealers to make truck-only facilities.
"Toyota's Image USA II dealer facility program does not recommend large truck centers or dedicated truck facilities," Toyota spokeswoman Sona Iliffe-Moon said in a statement. "The program was designed for full-line flexibility and to meet changing consumer, market and dealer needs over the next generations of vehicles."
An industry source close to Toyota says the company historically had been cautious about pushing dealers to build facilities. That forced Toyota to rush its dealers to expand when the much-larger truck arrived.
"The dealers didn't have any lifts or bays big enough to handle the new Tundra," the source said.
Multiline dealer Fritz Hitchcock, of Puente Hills, Calif., is philosophical about the Tundra's travails. He recently built a separate Toyota truck service center with 14 stalls on the 3.3 acres vacated by the Volkswagen franchise he dropped.
"Sure, it's added rent and overhead," Hitchcock says. "I obviously wish the SUV and truck market didn't go in the toilet, but that's what we're looking at these days."
In talking with other Toyota dealers, Hitchcock says, he hears a reluctance to invest in store renovations, especially for trucks.
"Toyota is very aggressive on facility growth and upgrades, and that push has not slowed down," he says. "But if you have built a truck center, you can convert it into a Scion center or a small-car center, so there are some options there."
Toyota responded quickly to the Tundra overload by temporarily halting production at its Texas and Indiana plants. Toyota allowed the Escondido store to lower its inventory from nearly 500 Tacomas and Tundras earlier this year to 260 last month.
Nationally, Tundra inventories are at a 67-day supply, or about 37,000 units. That's down 12,000 units from just a few weeks ago and far below the Detroit 3's inventory of full-sized pickups.