Toyota eyes heavy-duty pickup market

With sales of its half-ton V6- and V8-powered Tundra pickup truck line growing steadily in the United States, Toyota is considering expanding into the heavier thre-quarter and one-ton pickup class.

“Right now we only market a half-ton pickup and we believe its V6 and V8 gasoline engine options meet most of the power needs of our customer base,” Mark Amstock, national truck and SUV marketing manager for Toyota Manufacturing USA, said. “But we recognize our competitors have two V8 engines as well as a diesel option for their heavier pickups. We’re definitely studying a diesel option for our next-generation Tundra.”

Amstock said getting into the heavy-duty pickup market would require more investment on Toyota’s part as a diesel upgrade isn’t feasible for its half-ton pickup model.

“You just can’t upfit a half-ton diesel for that market – it’ll require sizeable drivetrain and frame investments,” he said. “So we’re still looking at whether we want to be in the heavier end of the market.”

Despite those issues, Amstock said Toyota feels it has a very competitive pickup truck for the U.S. market.

“It’s a very capable truck – our double cab is 19 in. longer than Ford’s F-150 super crew cab and the bed is 7 in. longer,” he said. “We’re looking at selling 120,000 Tundra units this year, with half of them double cab configurations.”

One potential advantage Amstock thinks Toyota may have if it gets into heavy-duty pickups is the company’s knowledge of hybrid systems. In fact, Amstock spent nearly seven years handling the U.S. launch of Toyota’s commercial hybrid passenger car, the Prius, before moving over the to the truck side of the business.

“The hybrid power system [a gasoline or diesel engine combined with a battery-driven electric motor] has application in light trucks,” he said. “We’re a proponent of it and we know consumers want it.”

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