Toyota’s Mike Sweers Defends 2014 Tundra – AutoNews Interview
Tim Esterdahl | Aug 14, 2013 | Comments 14
Last week, Toyota chief engineer Mike Sweers had a revealing conversation with AutoNews West Coast Editor Mark Rechtin. Here is what he had to say.
Rather than cherry pick what we tell you, here is the entire post (click here to go to the page).
Q: A lot is being made of the Tundra engines being carried over, while Chevrolet, Ford and Ram are rolling out new powertrains with their truck redesigns. Did Toyota goof?
A: In 2007, we had the most advanced powertrains in the segment. We had overhead cams, 32 valves and variable valve timing. Now the others are just competitive. Everyone is saying how the Silverado has this new engine family, but it’s still just pushrods. And those small turbo engines may make a lot of power, but at their heart, they are still small-displacement engines that can’t do the same thing as a big V-8. And engine braking is a big thing when towing.
Q. What about adding direct injection or cylinder deactivation to Toyota’s truck engines?
A. We looked at these things and just couldn’t find the return on investment for the owner. Both are expensive for us and for our customers. And my concern is whether customers see real-world fuel economy differences or if it’s just so the manufacturer can get off-cycle credits for CAFE. Truck guys are quick to catch on when they pay for something and it doesn’t deliver. When we can prove direct injection is beneficial to the customer, we’ll do it.
Q. What about stop-start?
A. With a V-8 that has a lot of torque, it won’t be a seamless integration on restart like you would get with a Prius. You’ll probably get a real kick in the back. And for the small fuel economy gains you would get, I think most customers would find it annoying.
Q. Current Tundra owners have complained about a significant driveline “clunk” during deceleration. What have you done to address that with the 2014 model?
A. If you really push it, you can still create it. But we’ve put countermeasures in place to resolve it. Our prop-shaft setup has always been different from our competitors’. We have split it in two, with a counterbearing to make the shaft shorter.
Q. Did the noise have something to do with the counterbearing?
A. No. But if I told you what we did, then you’d know what was wrong. I’m sure someone clever will tear apart the new one and old one and figure it out.
Q. There were some complaints about bed-hop. Sure, it’s a pickup truck; it’ll have some back-end bounce when unladen. But these were some really upset people.
A. We added hydraulic dampeners in 2010 to address this. But for 2014, we changed the spring rate on the leaf springs, especially on the off-road package. There’s a fine line between a good highway ride and off-road capability, especially involving the secondary damping. We also revised the valving of all four shocks. I think we hit a nice balance.
Q. What was something current owners told you that surprised you?
A. We found that 88 percent of our crew cab customers didn’t like the rear seats. We spent all this time and effort to make this great seat that reclines, tilts and slides. And all the time, they just wanted a flip-up seat so they could store more stuff. I don’t want to spend money to dissatisfy our customers.
Your turn. Fire away!
Filed Under: Tundra News
Q. Why no selectable eLocker? All other truck manufactures offer a mechanical limited slip or eLocker.
I agree with his response about the engine. It is still comeptitive today and on top of that, it has 6+ years of time behind it.
I also personally think the 5.7 and the 6speed are actually a very good combination. As much as I would like better gas mileage, I’d would rather Toyota just tweak what they have and not do something like a turbo v6 and go through all of the growing pains.
In regards to elockers and other things like that, they don’t make that much of a financial sense, but Toyota could offer those items as TRD options. That way the price of the truck doesn’t change, and if people really want them, they can get a TRD one.
Agreed on eLockers. When you look at the different products Toyota offers, they could offer it as a package option like the 4Runner Trail Edition.
It looks to me like AutoNews tried to ‘nit pick’ the Tundra. There are no questions about the Tundra’s safety, proven reliability, accolades (more than than its competitors combined I believe), and resale value.
I don’t know what the fuss is with the back seat. I love the recline and slide. So do my passengers. They were shocked when I showed it to them and they loved the ride! Frankly, that feature and the fully retractable rear window (on my Crewmax) helped my buying decision. The tiny, sliding window on EVERY other manufacturer’s Crew Cab is pathetic as are their uncomfortable, unadjustable seats!
Sweers seems to be overly concerned with towing and the towing crowd’s thrifty attitude toward their bottom line. DI clearly gains viable, seat of the pants HP and torque plus a bump in MPG. This isn’t unnoticeable. However, when the ’14 gets a bump in price for what is essentially the same truck, he doesn’t talk about the “towing crowd” getting it’s panties in a wad over the increase. Besides, the Silverado went up in price commensurate with the Tundra but it HAS DI and a host of new improvements. There goes his argument. But that’s not all.
The Tundra was the first to have a 6spd and it took Ford and GM 2 years to catch up. Now Chrysler is threatening to take the lead with their 8spd in the Ram. An 8spd in the Tundra, even without DI, would have bumped both towing and MPG plus a seat-of-the-pants improvement in acceleration. The Ram had only a modest increase in MSRP. Sweers gambled and lost here.
When I took my older 2010 TRD Tundra home, it had SOME bed bounce that was TOTALLY within the parameters of a pickup truck’s ride. This was directly related to it’s big sidewall height tires! Why hasn’t anyone mentioned this? When I swapped the pitiful 18″ BF Goodrich All-Terrains to a quality 20″ Yokohama, the ride improved dramatically.
For comparison: I rented a 2013 F-150 Crewcab recently (with a CHEAP plastic interior!) and it was far MORE bouncy than my ’10 Crewmax was. In fact, despite the Ford being a good truck overall, the ride was unsettling at times on its lousy 18″ stock, all-season tires. Its truck-based, sloppy steering, did nothing to help it. So Sweers and his “team” presumably spend lots of money on suspension changes to thwart bounciness, when the culprit was mostly the tires IMO. The ride was already very GOOD to begin with! Who does this guy confer with when he sets out to “redesign” a popular, well-built vehicle that already rides AND steers VERY well? The ‘all-important’ towing crowd? When you are towing, the weight on the receiver dampens ANY bounciness in the bed. So who cares?
To his point, Sweers is right by not allowing the budget to balloon like the US Gov. in a jobless economy that is unpredictable at best. A refresh with a much-needed interior redesign was all that was needed to remain competitive for now. As production increases, they can add an 8spd and DI etc. as the numbers indicate down the road. But hopefully, NOT in 7 years especially when the Ford 5.0L DOHC makes a lot of power TODAY.
Very well thought out comment and I agree on all the points. I think Sweers was right about a lot when he looked at the market a few years ago at the beginning stages if redesigning the pickup. Things have surely changed quickly since then.
I’m not sure if Toyota will wait 7 years again. My gut tells me they won’t but who knows.
I like the thought on bed bounce being related to tire choice. I’ll look into that some more.
The BF Goodrich tires on the TRD package, should be changed. I discovered not only did they make the suspension nervous, (2wd only) they wore out in 20k miles! Going to a 20″ tire/wheel was a wise choice, but I kept the sidewall height at a robust 55mm. It’s a good compromise that worked well with my Bilsteins. The ride is amazing. The only time I feel minor shudder, is when I go over a large speed bump with an empty bed. EVERY truck does this including the F-150, (with it’s vaunted “fully boxed frame!”) though even more so, with its 18″ tire and tall side hight of 75mm.
Mike Seers is probably a very capable guy at Toyota, but in keeping with some of the commenters here, he should really promote more of the Tundra’s obvious and class leading attributes that the competitor’s ’14 trucks do not match. I would have gladly written to him had he offered a public-inspired clinic for comments on the next model. This forum is a good reference.
To stay ahead of the pack, just reassess your attributes and then tweak them. Let marketing cleverly promote the truck like they did in ’07 commercials. But remind everyone how you got there!
I must have missed that boat about having a CM back seats that recline. I thought that was a great feature. I store a lot behind and under the back seats. This is a truck not a station wagon or SUV. Now Sweers better be looking into an 8 speed tranny. No need to change the engine but adding an 8 speed will definitely help in mpg dept. It really bothers me he got rid of the reclining sliding rear seats for storage. I’m not sure I would get a new Tundra now. Better to keep my 07 CM.
I agree, I am totally disappointed with the new ’14 CrewMax not having reclining seats. It was a huge factor in my purchasing mine. It definitely separates the CrewMax from the other crew cabs.
I have the cargo net on the back of my seats, and lots of stuff underneath also. If they are going to make it fold up, the should have mad a flat floor in the back seat like the F-150. After all, they took the dash right out of the Ford for ’14.
I don’t understand why they don’t direct inject this motor. I just hope it doesn’t need premium when they do, like the Lexus line does. It would increase mpg, horsepower and torque. I’m willing to pay a bit more for it, but not a lot.
I’m ok with the LSD I have now, but an e-locker would be cool, but make sure that you can use it in an drive mode-2WD or 4 high and 4 low, like Ford does.
The e-locker on the Tacoma is only capable in 4 low, and it would be convenient to just be able to pull the knob in 2WD for a quick bit of extra traction.
I don’t know about an 8 speed. People complain now how often these trucks shift already since they went to 6 speeds.
With the old 4 speeds, you were either in 4th cruising down the highway, or if you were towing or hauling, you were in 3rd. Now it is up and down, which doesn’t bother me at all, but I hear about it as a Sales Consultant.
If it really makes that big of a difference in performance, I’m all for it, but how much wider of a transmission ratio do we need? Doesn’t Tundra still have the widest gear ratios? Is it even going to get into 8th gear for any length of time?
I haven’t had any issues with bed bounce, but right from the start I put a Toytec leveling kit on it, and Toytec’s kit has the 1″ lift spacers for the rear springs. My CrewMax rides a little softer than a stocker. They don’t advertise that as being a benefit with that kit, but it is definitely a better ride than it was stock.
This is crazy. The Toyota response should be we a are not replacing the engine because it works.
Mike Sweers is in a bad position. He is saying all the wrong thing and he is likely going to lose his job. Why, he makes sense.
Stop making sense Mr. Sweers.
One repair on a high tech engine and I could be out 2500 bucks. Keep what works until the next generation is perfect.
By the time the CAFE numbers really kick in after 5 years, a 1/2 ton truck won’t be worth having. I am almost at the point I will move up to 3/4 tons to get away from all the crap which is required.
While the Tundra may need an update the only thing I would hold for is direct injection. I just hope they don’t get caught up in all the high power hype and go with twin turbos. If I can’t move what I have to transport with a 400 foot/LB motor, the stuff can stay where it is.
I agree with Larry, but add…
Toyota has direct injection on the motors that the 5.7 and 4.6 were based on (for years) – and decided that DI would be deleted from use on Truck engines. They know more about DI than we do and are clear in saying that it is not well suited to Trucks (Sweers says cost versus return etc…) But I wonder if there is more to it on the reliability front for use in the service a Pick up performs versus a passenger vehicle?
Anyway… My money is on the statistics also show that 88% of Tundra owners never sit in the rear seats and even more have to pay for their truck 🙂
I don’t see why Toyota can’t giv is both – the new rears are cantilevered to delete the rails for a smooth cargo floor – can’t they just have the mounts slide in short recessed rails with a slit in carpet and retain the tilt allowed by slide? Doubt it will be as Sweers comment is that it cost Toyota profit to give us tilt and slide and with 88% hating it – its gone is for good…
If my next CrewMax has no slide recline – it better have a flat floor (unless making room for a flux capacitor).
Isn’t Sweers the same guy that designed the sagging dash in the Gen2 Tundra???
That would explain the updated interior, but the rest of his comments seem a bit strange. He is evidently listening to a different audience than the Tundra websites are.
I was surprised at the comment towards the end
” We found that 88 percent of our crew cab customers didn’t like the rear seats. We spent all this time and effort to make this great seat that reclines, tilts and slides. And all the time, they just wanted a flip-up seat so they could store more stuff. I don’t want to spend money to dissatisfy our customers.”
Really, because I own the 2014 and I would love the storage under the seat, but it touches the floorboard. that doesn’t make sense. also there is no way to fold down the rear seat to make up for the lost space. All in all I love the truck and it is spacious, but please don’t make excuses for the truck when they clearly didn’t listen to customers on this particular item
great news, Sweers is a great engineer. Most would not bother to think about the seats in the back of the car/truck. This new seat design looks #nice. I do agree with Mickey an eight speed tranny would be terrific