LOUISVILLE, KY – Although the vehicles and their target buyers are dissimilar, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. says it will model its Tundra fullsize pickup truck marketing plan on the Scion small car “vertical” model.

The approach calls for placing the Tundra in locales where Toyota knows truck owners and potential buyers will be, much like how Toyota visited hip nightspots with its Scion models to promote the new brand’s Gen Y-focused models.

“We need to reach truck buyers who previously never considered a Toyota product (with the ’07 Tundra),” Jim Lentz, executive vice president-Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., says in a statement.

“This will be particularly important in America’s heartland, where Toyota has not penetrated the market as strongly as other regions,” he says.

The majority of buyers, 35%, will purchase the ’07 Tundra based on its image and 32% will be “true truck” enthusiasts, Ernest Bastien, corporate manager-vehicle operations, says at a media event here. Another 12% will choose it for light-duty driving; 15% will use the pickup to haul their family; and 6% will be purchased for commercial use, he says.

While Tundra national marketing will include primetime TV commercials and the seemingly requisite NASCAR and NFL sponsorships, it is the smaller, regional- and local-level events that may be key to winning over fullsize pickup enthusiasts who drive Ford F-150s, Chevy Silverados and Dodge Rams.

Toyota says local events will be instituted by Toyota’s dealers via sponsorships of outdoor events in their town, such as hunting and fishing tournaments and state fairs.

Grassroots marketing events are being planned in partnership with the Future Farmers of America, Construction Expos, Farm Progress Show and Bikers for Babies, Toyota says.

So far, nearly 200 local events are planned to reach 16 million people. Toyota predicts by the time the Tundra goes on sale in February thousands of local-level events will have taken place.

Potential buyers will get the chance to drive the new Tundra at several venues, including 84 Lumber store openings. A planned “Prove it Tour” will launch in early February, with stops at the 2007 Daytona 500, in which Toyota’s Camry will race for the first time; the 2007 Super Bowl; the 84 Lumber PGA Golf Classic; and the Bass Master Classic.

Toyota especially will play up Tundra’s U.S. roots with a display on the Prove it Tour. The Tundra is built at Toyota’s Princeton, IN, plant, and will launch production at a new, dedicated plant in San Antonio in November.

“For the new Tundra to meet its lofty sales goals in such a highly competitive segment, we must deliver a message that leaves no stone unturned,” Lentz says. “We feel our well thought-out comprehensive marketing campaign will be instrumental in helping us win over the most loyal vehicle owners in the U.S.”

Toyota says it wants to double its market share, from 5% to 10%, in the fullsize pickup segment.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com