The light duty pickup truck segment is as competitive as ever before, but Toyota (NYSE:TM) — at least, one of its chief executives — isn’t concerned about the updated competition. Bob Carter, the senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota’s U.S. division, has been more publicized recently for responding to critics of Toyota’s hydrogen initiatives.
Toyota will “sustain” last year’s sales levels of the two models — the Tundra and the Tacoma — this year as well as next, Carter said, according to Wards Auto. Next week, the company is pulling the curtain back on its new performance line, TRD Pro, which will include off-road versions of each of the aforementioned vehicles.
that’s in the face of a new Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Silverado, a new GMC Sierra, and a heavily redesigned Ford (NYSE:F) F-150, due to hit showrooms later this year. To top it off, a new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon will be playing in the largely deserted field that the Toyota Tacoma until now has enjoyed more or less to itself.
A new Ram 1500 packing a six-cylinder diesel engine will also be challenging Toyota’s Tundra, while a new Nissan (NSANY.PK) Titan — also rumored to be packing a diesel option — will be making its first appearance at the Detroit Motor Show early next year.
Nonetheless, Carter is confident that the refreshed Tundra and the Tacoma will hold their own as small players. The Tundra saw a 10.9 percent increase in sales in 2013 to 112,732 units, though that’s a fraction of the 480,414 Silverados, 184,389 Sierras, and 763,402 F-Series pickups sold during the same time.
“The (volume of the U.S.) fullsize-truck market back in 2006 was 2.5 million,” Wards Auto quoted Carter as saying. “When the recession hit, (it fell to) 1.2 million. We don’t see it going back to 2.5 million, but we do see it going back to 1.8 million-1.9 million.”
That still leaves some wiggle room, though Toyota has been working at max capacity for its Tundra and Tacoma trucks. “We’re still able to do some things with (added shifts and overtime), but as we go forward we’re going to have to look at the footprint, investments in labor (and) maybe … make some investments in San Antonio and/or Baja to add some more capacity,” Toyota Group Vice President Bill Fay told Wards Auto.
“Competition is a good thing,” Carter said to the publication. “It expands markets.”