The Tundra has been showing its age for a while.
Last year, with 109,203 total sales in the U.S., it once again placed fifth out of six full-size pickups in its segment, beating only the Nissan Titan. In fact, since it went on sale in the U.S. in 1999, the Tundra has never bested the annual sales of any full-size pickup from the Detroit 3.
The Tundra's current generation dates from 2007 — a 14-year life cycle that is the pickup equivalent of a Galapagos tortoise compared with the five-year turn of its domestic rivals. And at 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway, the fuel economy of the 2021 Tundra lags every competitor in the full-size segment.
Karl Brauer, a longtime industry analyst who now is executive publisher at CarExpert.com, said Toyota's experience developing the current-generation Tundra was "unfortunate," because the automaker's decision to upsize the not-quite-full-size Tundra to take on domestic trucks in 2007 was expensive and ill-timed.
Rising fuel prices and then a global economic collapse just as the truck was launching took a heavy toll on Toyota's aspirations in the segment, as did the cost and construction time to get the San Antonio plant up and running.
"I think Toyota felt highly burned by the whole thing," Brauer said. "That's not the Toyota way, to suffer financially on a new product." Toyota opted to do only a partial update of the Tundra in 2014, causing the Tundra to fall further behind its domestic competitors in technology.
"I think they're in a terrible position now, but they're committed," Brauer said.
With the redesign, one thing is clear: The cost of the Tundra is likely to rise over that of the current model, Findlay said.
"I don't think we realize that with all the new bells and whistles and powertrain, we're going to be in a different payment range, and so we may lose some of those loyal Tundra customers," the dealer council chairman said. "But I'm still excited at what Toyota is going to offer out there. It's going to be unbelievable."