CHICAGO – The Tacoma X-Runner “concept” pickup that really isn’t a concept at all symbolizes Toyota Motor Corp.’s assertion that future growth in the U.S. compact and fullsize pickup segments will come largely from so-called “personal-use” buyers.
Tacoma X-Runner fully representative of production-truck sheetmetal.

Don Esmond, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. senior vice president and general manager, says the low-slung, hood-scooped and wide-tired Tacoma X-Runner, which appears anything but ready to haul dirt, shows where Toyota thinks the pickup market is heading – away from its utility-vehicle roots.

The Tacoma X-Runner, says Esmond, “is not a concept vehicle. It is, however, a show truck and a go truck.”

He says the X-Runner is fully representative of the sheetmetal slated for the production ’05 Tacoma that goes on sale in September.

Although not all trim levels will have the same lowered and flared appearance of the X-Runner concept, Esmond says the ’05 Tacoma’s styling, interior and refinement are oriented to younger buyers who want a pickup as a lifestyle vehicle and don’t have much need for traditional pickup virtues.

Esmond says, in essence, that’s where Toyota sees future growth in both the midsize and fullsize pickup segments.

“We’ve seen it (a usage shift) on all of our pickups,” says Esmond. “It’s not more carpenters and plumbers. It’s more people using these trucks for personal use.”

The ’05 Tacoma X-Runner is powered by a 4L DOHC V-6 that develops 240 hp and 275 lb.-ft. (373 Nm) of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission will be available.

Responding to a general growth in the compact pickup segment that many auto makers now prefer to bill as the “midsize” pickup segment, the Tacoma has a 5-in. (13-cm) longer wheelbase and its track is 4 ins. (10 cm) wider.

Performance also is decidedly un-truck-like. Esmond says the Tacoma X-Runner will do the 0-60 mph (97 km/h) dash in seven seconds, while a supercharged variant marketed by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) employs approximately 300 hp to cut that run down to a sports car-typical six seconds.

Despite competing in a market that sees an unprecedented number of new entries this year – General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. all have new midsize/compact pickups – Esmond expects Toyota to increase market share. He says Toyota also continues to study the possibility of diesel power for its next generation of fullsize pickups.

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com