Going up against the perennial powerhouses in the lucrative full-size-truck market, Toyota is putting a significant investment into the 2007 Tundra.
It has unveiled an ambitious marketing plan, aimed at the “true truck owner.” With nearly one-quarter of today’s full-size-truck buyers changing brands every year (according to the company’s marketing surveys), Toyota will try to convince buyers to put aside any loyalty to other brands and look at the features and benefits of the Tundra.
The development of the Toyota Tundra went well beyond the redesign of the model it replaces. Except for two engine carryovers (the 4-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8), the 2007 Tundra shares virtually no parts with the 2006 Tundra.
North American truck
The new vehicles are truly North American. They were designed in Michigan and California, their engines are built in Alabama, and their transmissions are made in California. The Tundra will be manufactured in two production facilities: a Princeton, IN, plant (which assembled previous-year models) and a new $850 million plant in San Antonio, TX.
“Our mandates were that the Tundra project would need to be North American self-reliant, effectively shifting the responsibility from Toyota City, Japan, to Ann Arbor, MI,” explains Yuichiro Obu, chief engineer for the 2007 Tundra. “This is a big commitment to resources.”
Toyota officials indicate that they weren’t benchmarking the competition with the Tundra; they were determined to deliver what customers want. Engineers and developers spent months interviewing owners of full-size trucks, focusing on the key features and benefits they want in a pickup.
“This truck is 100% customer-driven,” Obu says.
The 2007 Tundra has 31 primary configurations. Three cab sizes (regular, double-cab and CrewMax) are available, and the regular and double-cab models are available in standard (78.7-in.) and long-bed (97.6-in.) versions. All cargo beds are wider than the beds of 2006 models (66.4 in. vs. 62.8 in.).
Three engine/transmission choices are available, including the all-new 5.7-liter iForce V8 engine with an all-new six-speed automatic transmission that delivers 381 hp at 5,600 rpm and maximum torque of 401 lbs. ft. at 3,600 rpm. Other choices are the 4.0-liter V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission and the 4.7-liter iForce V8 with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Towing capacity has greatly improved in the 2007 models, with all versions rated at more than 10,000 lbs. Topping the list is the 5.7-liter V8-equipped regular cab with a towing capacity of 10,800 lbs.
Dealers and suppliers
Beyond the development of the truck itself, Toyota engaged its dealers and suppliers to be ready and waiting for the new models when they hit the market. Before launch, Toyota built a total preparedness program.
“Toyota’s operations have been significantly reorganized,” says Don Esmond, executive vice president of vehicle operations. “Representatives from seven key departments were relocated so they now work side by side in a specially designed Tundra Operations Group.”
Toyota will spend close to $2 billion in the next two years to upgrade its dealerships. Customer service also gets a makeover, with additional training programs and services for work-truck owners.
Accessories for the 2007 Tundra should be in good supply. Toyota has given aftermarket suppliers ample opportunity to ramp up production by allowing them to review the new Tundra five months before the vehicle went on sale.
The sales target for the 2007 Tundra is 200,000. That’s an ambitious plan and double Toyota’s current sales in the half-ton truck market. But don’t expect Toyota to stand on those numbers: Total production capacity for the Tundra is 200,000 in San Antonio and 100,000 in Princeton.
“We are fully aware of how many chips are on the table,” Esmond says. “Competition will be fierce, and there is no doubt it will be a buyer’s market for quite some time.”