Unveiling new-look Tundra
Toyota will beef up its play in an increasingly competitive truck market when it unveils the third-generation Tundra — the first redesign of the full-size pickup in six years — at the Chicago Auto Show today.
When it hits dealerships this fall, the 2014 Tundra could help the Japanese automaker gain ground in a segment dominated by Detroit's Big Three, all of which also will release new pickups over the next 18 months.
In 2012, Toyota sold 101,621 of the San Antonio-made Tundra. But the company's share of the large truck market has slipped in recent years, from 8.9 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent last year, according to the auto-information site Edmunds.com.
The Tundra's market share peaked at 13 percent in July 2007 following its last redesign.
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“The Tundra hasn't been around long enough to have the loyalty base that its competitors count on, so it's had to fight an uphill battle for market share against the competition,” Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo said.
“A successful new product by Toyota will not only get the attention of the Tundra loyalists,” he said, “but also the domestic truck owners they want to wrestle market share away from.”
Toyota has released few details of the redesigned Tundra, so analysts differed in their predictions of what changes it will feature. Still, Acevedo expected the Japanese manufacturer to keep pace with rivals' drive for improved fuel efficiency.
According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54 in the U.S., up from $3.29 a year ago. And on Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the average U.S. household spent $2,912 on gasoline last year, or nearly 4 percent of its income — tying 2008 for the highest percentage in three decades.
“It's difficult to say whether or not something stylistically would really sway a lot of buyers,” Acevedo said, “but fuel economy and capability seem to be where all of these truck makers seem to be making their pushes.
“It seems like an across-the-board realization that customers are looking for improved (miles per gallon).”
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The Journal reported Toyota found buyers prefer longer-range trucks, even if the fuel economy was the same or worse.
“(Buyers) are not so interested in whether you get 21 or 22 mpg on the highway. It's more about how far can I go with a tank of fuel," Sweers was quoted as saying.
Toyota debuted the current Tundra in 2006 at the Chicago Auto Show, which bills itself as the nation's largest. The company relies on its assembly plant in San Antonio for all of its global Tundra supply, and production on the new pickup should begin in August.
Thanks to a recovery in the U.S. housing market and an aging fleet of trucks among businesses, Toyota and competing truck makers should enjoy a boost in sales, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst with car-pricing site TrueCar.com.
“The average age (of a pickup) is about 11 years now. It's the longest we've seen in recent history — actually, ever,” Toprak said. “The whole pent-up (demand) argument we keep hearing about is not just a myth.”
He said Toyota will have to court the business buyer with an emphasis on value while still appealing to so-called “lifestyle buyers” who may not need a truck.
“I don't know what to expect exactly, because they've kept it under wraps so well,” Toprak said of the 2014 Tundra. But “truck buyers are still predominantly business buyers, and they are looking for a lot of value (and) getting a lot of truck for their money.
“They need to go after that (lowest) common denominator and offer a basic truck with no frills then offer many different versions of the truck to attract the lifestyle buyers.”