CHICAGO – Look out Detroit.
As if there aren’t enough troubles in the Motor City, here’s the latest:Motor Corp.’s new ’07 Tundra fullsize pickup truck unveiled at the auto show here.
For the first time, the Tundra is as big and powerful as the domestic pickups that have dominated the U.S. market. Andsays it has its sights set on drastically increasing sales volumes.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Press says the sales goal for the Tundra’s first full year is 200,000 units – a nearly 60% jump over the 126,529 Tundras delivered in the U.S. last year.
That would represent about 8% of the 2,485,000 fullsize pickups sold last year. It is about half the number of Dodge Rams sold byGroup but less than a quarter of the volume of the segment’s top seller, Motor Co.’s F-Series.
The best news for Tundra’s competitors – particularlyMotor Co. Ltd., which struggled to move 86,945 Titan fullsize pickups in 2005 – is the ’07 Tundra still is about 11 months from reaching dealer showrooms.
Tundra all-new for ’07, with three engines and three body styles.
This will be the first Tundra that truly can be called fullsize. Its 228.7-in. (581-cm) overall length is 10 ins. (25 cm) longer than the existing Tundra, and the generous 145.7-in. (370-cm) wheelbase of the Double Cab variant unveiled here is 16.7 ins. (42 cm) longer than the current Access Cab Tundra it will replace. The truck has a 78.7-in. (200-cm) bed length.
The new Tundra Double Cab’s dimensions closely mimic the largest light-duty versions of the F-150.
Press says there will be more than 30 different variants of the ’07 Tundra. There are three cab configurations, bed sizes, engines and trim levels. He says there will be a variant with a larger cab than the Double Cab unveiled here.
“We’ll have a bigger 4-door to show when we get a little closer to launch,” Press says.
The engine lineup is topped by an all-new 5.7L DOHC V-8.
Toyota engineers and executives will not yet reveal projected power and torque figures, but Press says when equipped with the new iForce 5.7L V-8, the new Tundra will have a 10,000-lb. (4,536-kg) towing rating.
The other two available engines will be the 4L DOHC V-6 and 4.7L DOHC V-8 already available in several Toyota trucks and SUVs. All engines will be built in the U.S.
Press tells Ward’s the new 5.7L V-8 will be made solely at Toyota Motor Mfg. Alabama Inc. in Huntsville, AL. The 4L V-6 and 4.7L V-8 will be produced there and at Toyota Motor Mfg. West Virginia Inc. in Buffalo, WV.
“We’re studying other engine applications,” Press says of the potential for a diesel powerplant. And he does not rule out the prospect of working with an independent engine supplier.
“Diesel development is intense and expensive right now,” he says.
Inside, the Tundra is larger in every dimension. There are a variety of comfort and convenience features, including Bluetooth connectivity for personal electronic devices, an optional navigation system and a backup camera built into the tailgate that will be part of the navigation package.
Press also confirms the all-new body-on-frame structure will be used for its Sequoia SUV, and says he is not particularly worried about the currently weakened state of the large SUV market.
“There are people who need a large vehicle,” he says. “It’s (the new Tundra architecture) a great platform to build on.”
Press says the company’s newly constructed San Antonio assembly plant, built expressly to produce the new Tundra, has capacity for 200,000 units following a 50,000-unit expansion ordered with the facility still under construction. (See related story: Toyota Adding 50,000 Units at San Antonio Plant )
Although there were rumors last year Toyota was having difficulty finding qualified workers for the new Tundra assembly plant, Press tells Ward’s such is not the case.
He says Toyota is drawing workers from 14 counties around San Antonio and “hiring is on target.”
People from surrounding areas are moving closer to San Antonio for the opportunity to work at the plant, he says, noting the new Tundra also will be built at Toyota Motor Mfg. Indiana, where the current Tundra is assembled. (See related story: Toyota Says Not Chasing Domestic Pickup Loyalists )
New Tundra interior roomier in every dimension.
A Toyota engineer says developers examined the prospect of a composite material for the pickup box (the company has considerable experience in this area; the current Tacoma midsize pickup’s exterior box is composite), but decided to stay with tried-and-true steel. Press says Toyota will work with local suppliers to develop one or more types of drop-in bedliners, as is the practice with the current Tundra. Rivalsurprised the industry with spray-in bedliners for the Titan applied at its assembly plant in Canton, MS.
“We’ve looked at spray-in liners, but nobody’s been particularly impressed,” he says, adding Toyota is happy with the performance of the dropped-in plastic bedliners.
Finally, despite persistent questioning, Press would not confirm Toyota plans a medium-duty version of the ’07 Tundra, although the move would be a logical extension of the company’s expansion plans.
“We’re looking at the full spectrum” of market options, he says.