SAN ANTONIO — At Toyota’s busy pickup plant here, workers can install a sunroof only on every third truck on the line. Any more would add too many seconds to the build time — seconds that Toyota can’t afford to waste.
Already the plant is pumping out “north of 250,000” trucks a year, said David Crouch, vice president, administration and production control, at the facility, which builds the Tacoma midsize and Tundra full-size pickups on the same line. That’s thanks to an alternative work schedule that includes a Saturday shift and allows the plant to bust its regular-time capacity of 200,000 vehicles a year.
And Toyota needs every last unit of both trucks. Inventories of the Tacoma have long been exceptionally tight, as Toyota all but owned the midsize pickup segment for several years. But with strong new entrants from General Motors and the return of Honda’s Ridgeline, a supply shortage not only makes dealers and customers unhappy but also creates an opportunity for the competition to vie for consumers’ loyalty.
“Obviously, one of the biggest challenges that we have for Tundra and Tacoma is we’re capacity-limited,” Crouch said. If dealers had free rein to order more vehicles, “we could sell a lot more trucks right now.”