LOS ANGELES -- Gone are the days when Toyota expected to challenge Detroit's dominance in full-sized pickups.
"We're never going to challenge the Big 3 in terms of volumes," Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota's North American region, said in an interview.
Now, he says Toyota will combine compact and full-sized pickup volumes when measuring its success in the truck market.
The redesigned Tundra coming this summer will have plenty of competition. The redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-sized pickups will be introduced in June. The Ford F-150 will be redesigned next year. And the Ram was re-engineered last year.
Lentz's outlook marks a change from when Toyota came out with its first full-sized Tundra in 2006. At the time, Toyota targeted 300,000 Tundras a year -- within spitting distance of the Dodge Ram. It engineered a massive $100 million marketing launch to conquest Detroit loyalists. Toyota also prepared its Princeton, Ind., plant to backstop Tundra production in San Antonio, should the big truck exceed the Texas plant's 200,000-unit capacity.
But after a couple of years near 200,000 units, the recession hit and Tundra volumes fell. Last year was the first time since 2008 that Toyota sold more than 100,000 Tundras.
Both the Tundra and Tacoma now come off the same assembly line in San Antonio. If the Tundra can't reach its numbers, Toyota can crank up Tacoma production.
"Tacoma is so strong in the [compact] marketplace; there are some months where we are over 60 percent share," Lentz said. "The sweet spot [for Tundra and Tacoma combined] is 250 to 300,000 units."
Toyota sold 242,986 pickups in 2012; 101,621 of them were Tundras and 141,365 were Tacomas.
"Some shoppers will only consider compact," Lentz said. "Some will only consider full-sized. But in the middle, there is some interchangeability between those two."