Toyota Has Full-Size Truck Envy

by Jim Woods | August 5, 2013 8:49 am

Americans love their trucks. More specifically, we love American-made, full-size, gas-guzzling, eight-cylinder, diesel, high-torque pickup trucks designed to get down in the dirt and work as hard as we do.

How much do we love our American-made, full-size pickups? Well, last month we bought a whole lot of them. For example, in July, General Motors (GM[1]) sold more than 60,000 units, or 44% more full-size pickups than it did in July 2012. The bulk of GM’s truck gains came from the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models.

Rival Ford (F[2]) reported sales of its best-selling F-Series pickup trucks rose 22.6% in July to 60,449 units. Pseudo-American brand Chrysler — I say “pseudo” because it’s currently a division of Italy’s Fiat (FIATY[3]) — also saw a big rise in truck sales, with its full-size Dodge Ram pickup sales surging 31% during the month to just over 31,000 vehicles.

Together, the Big 3 American truck-makers dominate the full-size pickup market, and they account for more than 90% of all U.S. sales.

Now, with a huge market like this, it’s no surprise that Toyota Motors (TM[4]) would have a little full-size truck envy.

Feeling inadequate in the auto sales locker room isn’t something that Toyota is used to, nor is it something it particularly likes. That’s why some years ago (beginning with the 2007 model year) the company introduced the full-size Toyota Tundra pickup. The Tundra is a big, manly vehicle designed to stand up head-to-head with Chevy Silverado, Ford F-Series and Dodge Ram.

From a car-guy’s technical perspective, the Tundra does just that. Sporting a powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine capable of towing more than 10,000 lbs rather easily, the Tundra definitely keeps up with its American brethren. The new 2014 Tundra model promises to be more fuel-efficient than ever before, with a combined city/highway rating of 17 miles per gallon.

Indeed, the latest iteration of the Tundra is what Toyota is betting on to make a bigger dent in the U.S. truck market. The company even built a new production facility in truck country, deep in the heart of San Antonio. That move is obviously one designed to give Toyota a bona fide “Made in the USA” stamp. Production of the new Tundra in Texas recently started, and we’ll soon be seeing the Japanese automakers offerings at showrooms around the country.

The question now is will Toyota’s move actually work, or is the American-made truck market far too ensconced in nationalism and brand loyalty to make a difference?

While I am not someone who believes in “buying American” for nationalism’s sake, I do know that when it comes to trucks, American-made is just way cooler.

Moreover, in this country, brand loyalty and trucks are almost a religion. Ford guys are all about the blue oval, Chevy men are bowtie devotees through and through, and Ram fans are all about the guts and the glory.

So do you really think any of these hardcore buyers are going to turn Japanese anytime soon?

While I certainly understand Toyota’s desire to make a splash in the U.S. truck market, I suspect it’ll continue to remain only a small player in the full-size pickup scene no matter how good its product might be.

Let’s face it: When it comes to big trucks, American-only need apply.

As of this writing, Jim Woods did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities, but he did own a Ford F-series pickup.

  1. GM:
  2. F:
  3. FIATY:
  4. TM:

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