With all the pickup truck smack-talk going on over the television airwaves, you'd think Ford, GM and Ram were the only truck makers in the U.S. Well, we know that's not true.
Just because you don't see a lot of noise and shiny pieces sparkling in the media spotlight, don't be fooled into thinking that Toyota isn't working hard on what to do next with its full-size Tundra and segment-leading Tacoma.
One Toyota source, who declined to be named, said, "We're a different type of company, so our process might not look so obvious like Ford's or Chevys. ... We've got a lot of things we want to do, but our methods always have to be planned and usually rolled out over longer time frames."
We can say that we know of several Toyota round-table sessions where marketing and product planning experts from Toyota Motor Sales USA called in industry experts and picked their brains about current and future truck markets, both full-size and midsize, as well as yet-untapped categories. From what we've heard, many of the questions coming from the Toyota side centered on powertrain options, whether a turbo-diesel could work in a half-ton or whether diesels can only mean a heavy-duty platform.
Right now, the largest amount of energy seems to be centered around the idea of keeping pricing down for both models and not getting caught up in the race for more expensive and premium trim packages. One marketing expert, who also declined to be named, noted, "We know many of our popular Tacomas are more expensive, so we need to be very careful any time we consider the R&D and manufacturing costs for a potential future product."
Maybe that's why Toyota decided to play it conservatively in regards to pricing its coming Baja T/X Pro 4x4 Package. Our earlier report noted that the target price would be just a little more than the existing full TRD package that tops out around $35,000. Although the Baja will be limited to 750 units this year, we're guessing that 10 times that number will see the value in the bigger and stronger Bilstein shocks, new front springs, the mild lift, bigger and stronger wheels and tires, and heavy-duty rear springs. For those items alone, you could expect to pay as much as $6,000. But Toyota didn't want to go too far with the Baja if it meant too much added cost would have to be passed to the consumer.
"We didn't want to make a Raptor fighter, and we certainly don't want to price it anywhere near what the average transaction prices for new Raptors are going for," said the marketing rep. He went to offer a rather thorough delineation about how most consumers were ordering the Raptor, how much they were spending and how expensive it would be to have to manufacture different body panels for the same vehicle.
Clearly they've spent some time discussing and examining the Raptor quite closely. But to what end? It surprises us that with the volumes and segment domination the Tacoma enjoys now (and likely for several years to come) that this wouldn't be the exact time to do a little playful experiementing.
If Ford has proven anything, it's that there are plenty of different personalities to be squeezed from the same half-ton pickup platform. Why shouldn't Toyota try that same strategy, albiet on a smaller scale (750 units might be a good start), and give us more than an X-Runner, Baja T/X Pro and work truck. Toyota Racing Development did the heavy lifting on the Baja package, so it sure would be nice if somebody there could give them a little more time, money and creative freedom. It doesn't even have to be on a full-size or Tacoma.
To that end, rumors about the A-BAT, Toyota's popular downsized concept teased more than four years ago, may be alive, but from Toyota's point of view, it's dead. However, we have been hearing that Scion may try to do something on a RAV4 (or Highlander) platform that could try to incorporate some of the A-BAT's key design cues. Depending on how clever Scion can be with bed and interior storage as well as pricing, that could be an interesting vehicle for the Scion lineup, and a wonderful way of pouring a little juice into the compact trucklet market.
Of course, there is also the Tundra to consider. Although no one has expressed it directly, we'd guess this big truck and what to do next is what keeps the Toyota leadership awake at night. There is a huge plant in San Antonio that is running nowhere near capacity or even close to its full potential and as the truck-buying public starts to loosen their wallets and purses, there's no question Toyota has to start working on building their full-size marketshare and volumes. Whether that means a next-gen full-size Tundra more like a bigger Tacoma or if that means a jump into the 3/4-ton turbo-diesel market or they play with more variations and themes like Ram and Ford have done remains to be seen.
All we know is there is a lot of movement going on at Toyota it will need to start bearing fruit pretty quick if they don't want to get lost in all the 2013 and 2014 hoopla coming to the full-size dealer lots.