Toyota to Sell Flex-Fuel Tundra Late Next Year

Lentz says Toyota hopes to reduce the number of vehicles it imports to the U.S. in 2007, as most of the models it debuts this year are built here.

DETROIT – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. will begin selling a 5.7L, V-8 Tundra fullsize pickup capable of running on a mixture of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol in late 2008 as a ’09 model.

The auto maker makes the announcement at the 2007 North American International Auto Show here.

Jim Lentz, executive vice president-TMSUSA, says it is not yet known if the flex-fuel engine will be available across the entire ’07 Tundra lineup, which includes Regular Cab, Double Cab and CrewMax models.

Nor does he say how many FFV Tundras Toyota expects to sell and whether there will be an added charge for the technology.

Competitor Nissan North American Inc. sells its Titan fullsize pickup truck and Armada large SUV FFVs at the same price as traditional models.

Meanwhile, Lentz says Toyota has set a sales goal of 2.68 million units for the U.S. in 2007, up from the 2.54 million it sold in 2006.

Lentz also says Toyota wants to reduce the number of vehicles it imports to the U.S. this year, noting most of the models making their debut will be built here, compared with the Lexus LS 460 and Toyota FJ Cruiser that went on sale last year.

“(Last year) was a little bit of an anomaly,” he says. “The new vehicle launches for the year were Japan-built vehicles.”

Most of Toyota’s sales growth in 2007 is expected to come from the new ’07 Tundra, which goes on sale next month, with a sales goal of 200,000 units for the year.

At the same time, Toyota will double capacity of its Georgetown, KY-built Camry Hybrid, from 30,000 units in 2006 to 60,000 in 2007.

Additionally, the auto maker expects to sell more than 150,000 Prius hybrid-electric vehicles in the U.S. this year.

Lentz says Toyota will begin advertising the Prius “to let people know they’re out there.” Prius sales slumped in the latter half of 2006 as gas prices dropped and U.S. government rebates expired.

Lexus and Toyota HEV sales should total 250,000 units in 2007, Lentz says, noting a Tundra hybrid is being considered.

“It’s something we’re studying to see if it’s possible,” he says. “With the mass of a vehicle like (the Tundra), it makes a hybrid very, very challenging. So we’re looking at different alternatives, whether it’s flex-fuel, diesel application or hybrid.”

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