Our automotive market is unlike any other in the world, isn’t it? Whether you go to Europe or Asia, or somewhere else entirely you can’t see that many pickup trucks on the road as you can see only in states of California or Texas. Americans love their trucks for more reasons than just one and that became obvious to some car manufacturers only in recent years. Judging the fact that it is never to late, some, like Toyota here, entered the United States market in hopes of conquering it.
Toyota may have been in business for long and even had a line of pickup trucks prior to its debut on American soil, but as soon as this company figured we are crazy for trucks it changed their plans and adopted to the new market! They quickly started producing pickups in US and for the US only. They new that what they’ve done so far won’t be enough for us. Toyota revised their then current models and introduced only two which remained their main focus: Tacoma and Tundra.
Toyota Tacoma is their mid size pickup truck that was upgraded from compact size seven years ago. When premiered in 1995 it was made to be a replacement for Hilux (which was also marketed as Toyota Pickup at that time). Tacoma came with better characteristics than its predecessor and was mainly focused on the quality of the ride. Better handling, well thought safety systems and overall better quality of the produced truck. Everything sounded great, but at the same time it felt like there was something missing.
Engineers from Toyota figured that, even if you forget for a second that this is only a compact truck, pickups are often used as daily commute vehicles in US and Canada. So, payload capacity and other typical truck capabilities were disregarded only because of this preference of their potential buyers. Of course, they were still there in smaller form, if the driver would ever need them but the complete design of Tacoma was dedicated only for “play hard“ part of that famous motto (in that sense “work easy“ seams more appropriate). This philosophy was different, but at the same time looked plausible.
Toyota understood well what they got themselves into and they made success on the market with sales rising each year. By the end of 2007 they were selling more than 170,000 vehicles per year, but like in every other business, problems surfaced after that year and this number drooped significantly in the wake of economy crisis. Last year shows that Tacoma’s sales can be restored soon to the pre-economic crash and that they are indeed on the good way to continue that positive trend.
Among numerous positive reviews, Motor Trand magazine gave Tacoma “Truck of the Year“ award in 2005. Acclaim came from unexpected place too: US Army. During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, they used army version of the compact truck!
Toyota prepared new Tacoma for this year, but you can read about it here in more details.
Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup truck manufactured in the United States (currently in San Antonio, Texas) by the Japanese manufacturer Toyota. They started doing so in 1999, after they had positive feedback from Tacoma.
Tundra, in its concept is full-size pickup, able to do a lot more than Tacoma, but still many people criticized its size compared to domestic models. What bothered critics even more was the fact that Toyota’s truck didn’t have enough muscles to compete with the competition. Basic version of the truck had towing capacity of just 6,900 pounds (Double Cab edition) or slightly more with 7,100 lbs for Access Cabs and Regular Cabs with stronger V8 engine. This wasn’t enough to take down what models from Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan or Dodge offered in the similar category of trucks.
However, Tundra had bigger bed (nearly 5 inches or 130mm longer) than the most popular truck in the US, Ford F–150. First generation got its praises in the safety category, also. It can be said that it passed the test, while every other competing truck had much worse results. Many critics praised Tundra even more than Tacoma, and the truck was selling almost as much as it was possible, due to the limits in production.
Second generation came in 2007 with numerous improvements over its predecessor. It premiered in 31 versions and you could choose from 3 bed lengths, 3 cab sizes, 4 wheel –bases and two different transmissions. Its new 3UR-FE V8 engine was noticeably stronger so it could pull more than 10,000 lb and it had a payload capacity of over 2,000 pounds. Toyota even adopted Tundra for construction workers getting more space for them inside and easier, larger door handles.
Feeling very confidant about new model and what they acomplished, Toyota even organised event in which this truck pulled space shuttle Endeavour toward it’s final destination, the California Science Center.
It isn’t needed to say that this was no small task and it was complicated to do especially because of the size of the space shuttle.
Recalls and lawsuits…
Tacoma and Tundra both had the same shortcomings. Because of the poorly selected materials both of them started rusting in the vital places, so during their check up, many vehicles got “not safe for driving“ stamp. Owners weren’t satisfied with Toyota’s lack of compassion for the problem so soon media was alarmed until Toyota had to trow in the towel. The Japanese company started recalling earlier models treating the problem with either preventive measures or entirely changing the part in question.
Competition acted against Toyota too. Initially, Tundra had T150 name which sounded a lot like Ford F-150, so soon law suit followed from this company. Claiming that it was never their intention to manufacture it with that name, Toyota quickly named the pickup truck Tundra. But they didn’t want to let go Ford that easily. They counter sued Ford for their Lincoln LS sedan which bared the name too similar to their Lexus LS.
New chapter for Tundra
2014 Toyota Tundra amazed us by its face lift, but Chicago Auto Show didn’t point out that anything else was done on improving the performance of the pickup truck. Even Toyota’s team responsible for marketing and press relations didn’t highlight anything related to improved capabilities of Tundra.
Toyota’s Press Release
Toyota Unveils 2014 Redesigned Tundra Full-Size Pickup Truck at 2013 Chicago Auto Show
New Chiseled Exterior Styling
- All-New Interior Design Combines Refinement and Improved Function
- Segment-Leading Standard Backup Camera and Bluetooth® on All Grades
- Available Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Engineered, Designed and Assembled in the United States
Toyota Tundra is designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S.A. with 75 percent North American content.
Body of Tundra got new, squared look which is now closer to domestic models than its rounded predecessors. Lights were changed, as was the tailgates and bed which is now completely different then before. Interior got more modern look with new technology and considerably more useful functions implemented in the hood.
Still, nothing was done under the hood, when it could have been. Long talks about diesel engine or even hybrid were simply forgotten (it did sound like impossible thing for Toyota), but many expected some sort of Toyota’s take on turbocharged V6 EcoBoost. With it HD version was also nowhere to be found. Ford’s F- 150 can pull more than 11,000 pounds, which is something that Tundra can’t even dream about as of now.
While other companies tried to show us big improvements trying to best each other, Tundra just recycled what already had. Sure, those improvements are not to be disregarded since they do make driving easier and more enjoyable but we ask ourselves it Toyota even trying to compete? Of course this doesn’t mean that Japanese company won’t trow us some bigger news in the future, like special version of Tundra comparable to Ford’s Raptor, but right now this announcement sounds disappointing.
This could be the point of the discussion, to say the least, with some people already satisfied what Tundra is giving them and others demanding more improvements. Certainly, everyone was expecting more from this update because Toyota’s full-size pickup in current state can’t take on its competition, especially now when they announced new and significant improvement.
What do you think? Do you like Toyota or are you big on “Drive American“? Being completely designed and produced in US is that argument even valid anymore? What did you expect from new Tundra?