Toyota is ramping up production at its Huntsville, Ala., plant where it makes the all-aluminum 24-valve 4.0-liter V-6 engine. So far this year, Tacoma sales are up 22 percent over last year's numbers. Projections have the Tacoma, and other vehicles that use this popular V-6, climbing even higher before the end of the 2013 sales year.
According to Automotive News (subscription required), Toyota plans to invest $150 million in the Alabama plant to increase parts and production. The investment is likely to create as many as 50 new U.S. jobs, and produce as many as 362,000 V-6 engines per year, an increase of more than 30 percent.
Among other benefits, the additional 4.0-liter production will allow Tacoma to increase its segment marketshare, which, according to Toyota, is reaching close to 66 percent of the segment in some areas of the country. Of course, for the 2013 model year, the midsize pickup market consists of very few vehicles (only the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier for now).
Last year the Toyota Tacoma sold more than 140,000 units, with the vast majority of those models sold with the V-6. Of special note, a unique run of 750 Tacoma Bajas were sold in 2012 and Toyota expects to sell just less than 1,000 Bajas for 2013, all with V-6s. Additionally, we were told popularity is growing for the desert-racing-themed Baja trim, which could include even more performance modifications.
On the flip side, 2013 will be the last year the street-performance-themed Tacoma X-Runner will be offered, as customers have not taken to this package in nearly the same numbers as the PreRunner and Baja trims. A spokesman for Toyota said it's likely to offer more "adventure-themed" vehicles in the future because truck buyers who actually use their pickups like their more functional capabilities.
Whether that means we'll be seeing a more aggressive and extreme Tacoma TRD Baja T/X package or if the Tundra Rock Warrior options will morph into something as serious as the Baja suspension, we don't know. For now, we'll keep our fingers crossed for an all-new 2014 Tundra adventure truck.