With four new models arriving in showrooms, it's no wonder that Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. has declared 2000 as the “year of the truck and SUV.”

Last week in Dearborn, MI, in the shadow of Ford Motor Co.'s world headquarters, Toyota previewed for journalists a raft of its latest products aimed squarely at a market dominated by Ford, General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler Corp.

In the '01 model year, Toyota says it plans to sell 60,000 Sequoia full-size sport/utility vehicles, 70,000 Highlander midsize crossover utility vehicles (akin to the Lexus RX 300), 75,000 newly redesigned RAV4 compact SUVs (about half with mid-level trim and 33% highline models) and 150,000 Tacoma small pickups. Of the Tacoma mix, TMSA projects 45,000 will be 4-door Double Cabs and 4,000 will be 190-hp S-Runner sport trucks. Tacoma capacity at New United Motor Mfg. Inc. is 145,000 annually, 150,000-153,000 with overtime.

This growth should help Toyota boost its overall U.S. market share from 7.6% to 8.2%, says Alan DeCarr, TMSA vice president-sales.

Mr. DeCarr says he is not concerned that his company is rolling out new SUVs as that market is nearing saturation and as overall vehicle sales appear to be slowing.

“We see a bit of a correction but nothing major,” Mr. DeCarr says. “There are risks that everyone takes with new products. But there will be people who want large SUVs, and they will demand the best.”

Toyota says it wants trucks to account for more than a 40% share of the brand's North American sales, but remain less than 50%.

Mr. DeCarr hints that additional capacity could be necessary at the new Princeton, IN, plant that produces the Sequoia and the Tundra pickup. “We want to make sure we have the right products for the market.” He adds that more announcements may be forthcoming.

Mr. DeCarr says he expects large SUV sales to climb from the current 600,000 units to 640,000 units in '01, and that total vehicle sales in North America should reach 16.2 million-16.5 million in 2001. Much of the falloff from this year's 17.5 million-unit market likely will come in midsize cars and possibly large pickups, Toyota says.

Suggested retail prices for Sequoia range from $30,815 for the 2-wheel-drive (2wd) SR5 base model to $42,275 for the loaded 4-wheel-drive (4wd) Limited. Tacoma Double Cab comes with suggested retail prices of $17,855 for the 2wd 4-cyl. model to $21,865 for the 4wd V-6 version. RAV4 prices range between $16,215 and $18,665 for 4wd and automatic transmission.

The new RAV4 and Tacoma Double Cab are now in showrooms. Sequoia arrives in December, Highlander in February and S-Runner in spring.