With the pickup truck market set to sell more than 2 million pickups in the next year, some manufacturers find themselves facing a should-we-invest-in-a-new-truck-plant decision. When the pickup truck market fell to an all-time sales low of just more than 1 million units just five years ago, Toyota, in particular, found itself in a huge hole, having just spent more than $2 billion on a state-of-the-art production facility in San Antonio, Texas, to build its newest full-size pickup. Fast-forward to today and Toyota seems to be caught in exactly the opposite situation, with its full-size and midsize pickup sales making a strong comeback.
With production of Toyota's Tijuana, Mexico, plant at full capacity (soon to be capable of producing 63,000 Tacomas per year) and two full shifts running at the San Antonio plant (building Tacomas and Tundras), conservative predictions have Toyota producing close to 275,000 pickups by the end of 2013. However, in order to increase that number to meet demand for 2014 and beyond, there are only a few choices to consider.
The Tijuana plant could possibly produce a few more thousand vehicles, but it doesn't seem that would help U.S. demand much because most of those Tacomas go to Mexico and Canada. According to Automotive News, the San Antonio plant could possibly squeeze its two shifts to produce as many as 7,000 more units per year. Probably the most obvious way to produce more pickups is to start a third shift, which is always an expensive and risky proposition. Whether the decision-makers in Japan have the stomach for such an investment with the sting of the 2008-2009 sales dip still fresh in their minds is anyone's guess.
With all that said and from the rumors we're hearing, it seems there is still strong support from Japan for more Tacoma investment; that leads us to believe the Tacoma will more likely than not get a big cash investment, especially as it is already the segment's dominant player with well more than a 50 percent market share. It will be fun to watch what happens to the midsize pickup segment as both Chevrolet and Honda prepare themselves to challenge the Tacoma in both sales volumes and industry leading technology.