VP of Toyota Marketing spills the beans

It’s no secret Toyota has several aging SUVs and a pickup that desperately need attention. The full-size Tundra was last touched – and mildly at that – in 2014 and the 4Runner isn’t much further ahead. The three-row Sequoia is the segment’s oldest contender, dating back a full decade to 2008. Small changes are coming for the 2018 Sequoia, but it won’t be enough to catapult this body-on-frame SUV to the top of the pack. Thankfully, Toyota knows this, and as the automaker’s vice president of marketing told Automotive News, things are soon changing.

Ed Laukes spoke with AN at the 2017 Texas State Fair’s opening weekend about Toyota’s lack of fresh truck-based vehicles at the truck-centric event. When asked if it was time for Toyota to update its aging platforms, Laukes said, “One hundred percent. We are working on that right now.” Toyota’s stagnate models are further highlighted by the constant change and updates happening with Ford, General Motors, and Ram’s products. Toyota’s renewed focus on trucks can likely be attributed to both the truck and SUV segment’s explosion in popularity and Toyota America’s recent move of its headquarters from California to Texas. Texas is well known for its love of trucks. Some say Texas sets the tone for a pickup’s success in the rest of the U.S. Now with its new multi-million dollar HQ outside Dallas and its Tundra and Tacoma assembly plant in San Antonio, it’s highly likely Toyota will wholeheartedly dawn its cowboy boots and Stetson hat.

Continue reading for more information.

Why it Matters

Trucks are a big deal in the U.S., that can almost go without saying. The pickup and SUV/crossover markets are growing more each month, stealing sales away from sedans and other low-riding segments. But as brands like General Motors enjoys big sales thanks to its diverse SUV and pickup lineup, Toyota is currently relying on its sedans and mild-mannered crossovers to bring in profits. The one exception is the Tacoma, which continues to lead the mid-size pickup category month after month. But don’t get the idea Toyota is suffering. Ed Laukes points out the RAV4 is selling like mad, having moved just less than 43,000 units in September alone! That’s about 10,000 units shy of surpassing the Tundra’s sales-to-date for 2017. The Tundra isn’t a bust, though. It has averaged yearly sales between 115,000 and 118,000 since its refresh in 2014.

Nevertheless, a new Tundra, 4Runner and Sequoia are needed if Toyota wants more market share in each of those segments. And with Laukes’ confirmation that the automaker is working on major updates for the trio, we can bet things are going to get even more competitive. Let’s have a look at these three and see where Toyota could take them in the near future.

Toyota Tundra

TRD Sport Package Brings Added Styling and Handling Upgrades to 2018 Toyota Tundra and Sequoia High Resolution Exterior
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The Tundra nameplate has been around since 2000. The first generation Tundra did well for itself, but its not-quite-full-size stature meant many customers didn’t cross-shop the Tundra against segment stalwarts like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, and Ram 1500. Toyota fixed that in 2007 when it introduced a completely new Tundra. The second-generation truck was much larger and featured more creature comforts. An all-new 5.7-liter V-8 brought respectable power that competed well against GM, Ford, and Ram’s V-8 offerings.

Toyota refreshed the Tundra for the 2014 model year, giving it a more angular, chiseled body and a new dashboard design

Toyota refreshed the Tundra for the 2014 model year, giving it a more angular, chiseled body and a new dashboard design. The underpinnings remained mostly unchanged, with a few enhancements to the 4.0-liter V-6 for more power. The 4.6-liter and 5.7-liter V-8s remained unchanged. The Tundra TRD Pro debuted for 2015, bringing a healthy dose of off-road chops, making it one of the best off-roading pickups in the industry, short of the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram Power Wagon.

While the 2014 update was very welcomed, it did not address the Tundra’s towing or payload capacity. It’s currently rated to pull a maximum of 10,100 pounds, which trails every half-ton truck but the Nissan Titan. Fuel efficiency was also glazed over, with the 4.6-liter V-8 getting only 19 mpg on the highway and the 5.7-liter only mustering up 17 mpg on the highway. Considering the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel can get 29 mpg on the highway, the Ford F-150 2.7-liter EcoBoost can get 26 mpg highway, and the Chevy Silverado 4.3-liter V-6 can get 24 mpg highway, the Tundra simply falls flat.

Thankfully, Laukes thinks there is definitely a way to improve. In that interview with Automotive News, he said, “There’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t have a hybrid truck. All those options, we’re exploring. When you’re trying to raise you CAFE limits for the entire brand, there’s no option that isn’t on the table.”

In the Tundra’s next generation, we can expect an all-new V-6 and a heavily revised V-8, both paired with an eight- or 10-speed automatic transmission

In the Tundra’s next generation, we can expect an all-new V-6 and a heavily revised V-8, both paired with an eight- or 10-speed automatic transmission. We’d bet on a fully boxed frame (a response to customer and media input), improved in-dash technology, and some healthy improvements to active and passive safety systems. An aluminum body is likely too much for Toyota to pull off, but not a hybrid powertrain. A gasoline-electric system could boost the Tundra into a leading pot in the segment and will compete directly with Ford’s upcoming hybrid F-150. The full-size truck market will definitely be an interesting place over the next few years.

Toyota 4Runner

2014 Toyota 4Runner High Resolution Exterior
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The 4Runner name is one of the most iconic in the SUV segment and continues to be a hot seller, despite the current model’s age. The fifth-generation 4Runner debuted for the 2010 model year and has steadily increased its sales year-over-year, moving from 46,531 sold in 2010 to 111,970 in 2016. Much of the 4Runner’s success can likely be attributed to its lack of competition in its segment. The Jeep Wrangler and 4Runner are the sole mid-size SUVs that ride on a ladder frame and offer respectable off-road capability. Sitting atop the 4Runner’s trim lines is the very-capable TRD Pro. Like the TRD Pro trim on the Tundra, the 4Runner’s version brings upgraded suspension parts, beefier underbody skid plates, meatier tires, swanky electronic traction aids, and some unique bodywork.

Yet despite its impressive capabilities and sales growth, the 4Runner continues to use an old 4.0-liter V-6 with underwhelming power and fuel economy

Yet despite its impressive capabilities and sales growth, the 4Runner continues to use an old 4.0-liter V-6 with underwhelming power and fuel economy. It also has an interior that could use some love. Toyota would be smart to offer its new 3.5-liter V-6 found in the Tacoma, along with a hybrid system as an option. The one thing we hope Toyota never changes about the 4Runner, however, is its rugged body-on-frame design.

Toyota Sequoia

TRD Sport Package Brings Added Styling and Handling Upgrades to 2018 Toyota Tundra and Sequoia High Resolution Exterior
- image 704882

The Sequoia debuted in 2001 and was based on the first-generation Tundra. The introduction of the second-generation Tundra in 2007 saw the Sequoia get the same updates, too, for the 2008 model year. For whatever reason, Toyota didn’t see fit to update the Sequoia after the Tundra’s refresh in 2014. That means this three-row, body-on-frame SUV is still the same as it was in 2008. Toyota is rectifying that for 2018 with the addition of its active safety system (Toyota Safety Sense), slightly revised styling up front, an interior that looks similar to the 2014+ Tundra, and the addition of a TRD Sport trim. In 2013, the Sequoia has lost its 4.6-liter V-8, leaving the 5.7-liter V-8 as the only engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Like the Tundra, the V-8 makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque.

Despite the SUV segment being on fire, the Sequoia has never sold well

Despite the SUV segment being on fire, the Sequoia has never sold well. The second-generation’s first year, 2008, was its best at 30,693 examples sold. In 2016, Toyota only managed to move 12,771 Sequoias in the U.S. Compare that to the Chevrolet Tahoe’s 2016 sales of 103,306 or the Ford Expedition at 59,835. It’s clear Toyota has some catching up to do. Granted, Toyota does have the Land Cruiser, but it has been continually updated through the years and competes in the premium SUV segment with vehicles like the Range Rover and Mercedes GL-Class. In fact, 2018 has a significant update for the Land Cruiser. But unlike the Sequoia, Land Cruiser can attribute its continual modernization to its global availability. It obviously has a larger customer base to keep happy.

As for what a future Sequoia might look like, expect to see the same upgrades and changes found on the next-generation Tundra

As for what a future Sequoia might look like, expect to see the same upgrades and changes found on the next-generation Tundra. While that’s a no-brainer, Toyota would be wise to further help the Sequoia with a more luxury-minded suspension and interior over the Tundra, with the full-size, body-on-frame SUV segment trending toward the premium side.

Conclusion

Toyota has a lot of ground to make up with its Tundra, 4Runner, and Sequoia. There’s no doubt all three need some attention. Now that Toyota America is based in the truck-loving state of Texas, things are likely to improve. But not just on the short-term, either. Baring an economic disaster or rise in fuel prices, trucks and SUVs will continue to grow in popularity. Toyota will have to keep its products on a shorter life cycle (definitely less than a decade!) and continually upgrade and refresh its lineup every three to four years. It’s done a great job at this within is car and crossover categories, so it just takes the added investment to do the same with its body-on-frame products.

What do you think? Should Toyota renew its focus on trucks and SUVs? What changes would you want in the Tundra, 4Runer, and Sequoia? Let us know in the comments below.

References

Toyota Tundra

2014 Toyota Tundra High Resolution Exterior
- image 491988

Read our full review on the 2017 Toyota Tundra.

2019 Toyota Tundra Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full speculative review on the next generation Toyota Tundra.

Toyota 4Runner

2014 Toyota 4Runner High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Toyota 4Runner.

Toyota Sequoia

2008 Toyota Sequoia
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Read our full review on the 2017 Toyota Sequoia.

Source: Automotive News

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