2014 Toyota Tundra Overall Impressions – First Take
After a week of posts about exterior, interior, driving, etc., here is my view of the truck overall and Toyota’s sales expectations. Again, this information comes from Toyota’s press preview event, talking with reps and my limited time driving the truck.
A First Step
One of the first things that is apparent when discussing the 2014 model is that Toyota views this as a first step. All their speeches and literature talk about two things: the growing 1/2 ton market and the need to expand production. The truth is that Akio Toyoda’s decision to give more regional authority to make changes is going to have a LARGE impact on the truck.
I am going to make a big assumption that Tacoma production WILL shift to Mexico and the Tundra WILL come with more options. This is the large impact. I say that because all the reps I talk to mention this as a key piece. Considering how tight-lipped historically Toyota is, for them to casually announce a production change this like, it really is interesting.
Speaking with a high ranking Toyota exec, it is clear Toyota is rethinking its strategy. In the past, Toyota built a vehicle with very few different variations. In the compact car segment, this works well. In the truck segment, not so much. The exec conceded that Toyota’s business plan doesn’t really line up well with full-size trucks. Plus, having basically 1/2 a factory producing trucks isn’t enough capacity to offer a larger variety of options.
IF Toyota plans to make a big impact on the full-size truck market, it is clear they NEED more options on their trucks. The much discussed, 6 1/2 foot bed for CrewMax is a must. A true off-road edition is another must. An HD version, again a must. And more variety in power train is a must too.
The reality is about every car news outlet is producing stories with Toyota execs saying increased capacity is a key target. Keep an eye on this news as it will be key to getting more features on the Tundra. Every time you see someone say, “come on Toyota offer this option,” they are working on making that possible.
The MPG Debate
Go to any full-size truck forum and you will see a post called “Real-world fuel economy” or “MPG is killing me.” I don’t care if it is a Ram, GM, Ford, Nissan or Toyota forum, they all have it. Toyota says that there fuel economy in the 5.7 V8 is comparable with the industry and “if it isn’t broke, why fix it.” Past customers don’t always share that sentiment. Consider these statements from Paul Holdridge, Vice President, Sales, Toyota Division:
Careful analysis showed that tundra’s 5.7L V8 continues to be very competitive in the heart of the market.V8s of over 6.0L make up less than 3% of the retail half- ton market – with about 78% of FSPUs powered by core v8s under 6.0L. Among this core, Tundra’s 5.7 is very competitive from a power and torque standpoint as well as real world mpg. So why mess with a good thing?And when it comes to the industry trend towards smaller V6 engines, there is more to the story.Despite all the hype, Ram’s new V6 is only about five percent of their mix.Customers seem to be realizing this too. Despite all the ecoboost hype, more than half of F-150 customers select a V8. And the numbers just don’t add up. Third-party testing reveals that … whether you’ve got a small engine working hard or a large engine hardly working, real world mpg is around 15.So why not have a V8? The reality is, all the promises of improved fuel economy with these smaller powertrains do not live up to expectations — or provide the towing capabilities that full-sized pickup owners want.
The third-party testing? Consumer Reports that reports the average fuel economy in full-size trucks is 15 mpg. Check out this review about the new Ram pickup and it’s class average fuel economy.
Now, Holdridge did admit that full-size truck buyers are looking for a variety of power train options and diesel is one of them. My sense is that they have a diesel truck in their testing fleet, they know the MSRP numbers, return on investment for consumers and have a guess on market demand. However, unless the Ram 1500 diesel shocks everyone, I wouldn’t expect Toyota to offer it in a 1/2-ton truck.
The final piece in understanding that this truck is just a first step, is in Toyota sales forecasts. Frankly, they don’t expect this truck to take the world by storm. Holdridge says:
We expect to sell about 107,000 this year with a combination of 2013 and ’14 models.
Next year, with full production, sales will increase about 30 percent to 137,000.
Wow, you say 30 percent. Not a big deal, here’s why. The market for full-size trucks has been growing like crazy. In 2009 when the recession set in 1.1 million full-size trucks were sold. In 2012, the segment exceeded 1.6 million. Estimates are that it will exceed 2 million by 2015.
Looking at this exceptional grow with the knowledge that the Tundra is already trending upwards of 13 percent. Also, once new trucks hit the market, people who have been waiting will snap them up. This will cause a big spike (see: July 2103 Chevy Silverado 45% increase).
Let’s put this together and consider with a new truck on the market, a 400,000 increase in full-size truck sales, current sales already up, it isn’t too hard to fathom Toyota coming close to that number.
The truth is that if Toyota sells just enough to keep up its current market share, they will be happy. Toyota is always eager to point out that when you combine Tacoma and Tundra sales, they own about 18 percent of the market. This is about the same percentage of the market share for passenger cars.
In the end, there are definitely things I like about the new truck (dash, ride, seat cooling) and things I really dislike (loss of cabin items like slide and recline, grab handle, temp/clock gauge). However, if you have never owned or driven a 2013, those are not really buying factors probably.
Whether you like the exterior or not, the Tundra will increase its current sales. Is it enough to create “waves” in the segment? No way. According to Toyota, the truck options and configurations that will upset the market “are coming.” This is just a first step.
Filed Under: Tundra News