Toyota: Tacoma Demand, Loyalty Stand Up to New GM Trucks

A Toyota official credits the Colorado and Canyon for some of the Tacoma’s 19.7% increase through July, saying the GM models have reignited interest in the segment.

August 17, 2015

5 Min Read
rsquo16 Tacoma ranges from 2300037000
’16 Tacoma ranges from $23,000-$37,000.

TACOMA, WA – While the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon may be the best competitors it has faced in years, Toyota officials believe the new Tacoma will be able to fend off the threat posed by the General Motors twins.

“We’re not going to be spending incentive money on Tacoma. We don’t have to,” Cooper Ericksen, corporate manager-vehicle marketing and communications for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., tells select media here during a preview of the ’16 model, alluding to the expected strong demand for the next-generation compact truck that goes on sale Sept. 10 in the U.S.

That confidence comes from the Tacoma’s track record. It is the reigning champ of WardsAuto’s Small Pickup segment for 10 consecutive years and is on its way to an 11th win in 2015.

In recent years, the margin between the Tacoma and the segment’s few remaining players has grown wide, despite the truck’s last full redesign dating back to ’05.

Toyota sold 155,041 Tacomas in 2014, more than double the 74,323 deliveries by its next-closest competitor, the Nissan Frontier.

Ericksen credits the Colorado and Canyon for some of the Tacoma’s 19.7% increase through July, saying the GM models have reignited interest in the segment.

That interest appears to be benefiting the Tacoma more, however, as it racked up 105,834 sales through July, while the Colorado and Canyon tallied 48,784 and 17,671, respectively.

The Frontier is the segment’s No.3 best-seller this year, with sales of 38,999.

The Tacoma’s historically strong owner loyalty should help it perform as well as the outgoing generation, Ericksen says, as most Tacoma buyers have owned multiple models.

Tacoma Production Tapped Out

Toyota is building as many Tacomas as possible, and as a result it doesn’t expect sales of the new generation to increase much beyond last year’s 155,041.

Most Tacomas sold in the U.S. come from the automaker’s San Antonio plant, also home to the Tundra fullsize pickup. The rest are assembled at Toyota’s Baja California, Mexico, facility, which this year became the automaker’s first North American plant to adopt a 3-shift strategy to meet demand.

“They’re running 10-hour shifts in Texas, and every other Saturday in Baja they’re running 24 hours a day,” Tacoma Chief Engineer Mike Sweers tells WardsAuto. “I literally can’t build another truck. It’s a good problem to have.”

That’s not entirely true as San Antonio could add a third shift, as has been rumored. However, Sweers says Tacoma production plans will hold for the time being.

WardsAuto data shows the Baja plant assembled 41,741 Tacomas through June, up 21.3% vs. first-half 2014, while San Antonio built 62,317 Tacomas, up 20.8%. To adjust for increased Tacoma demand, builds of the fullsize Tundra pickup fell 13.1% to 61,332 in the year’s first six months.

While still assembling the ’15 Tacoma, Sweers says the San Antonio plant recently decreased its takt time (the time needed to perform each assembly operation) from 62 seconds to 60 seconds.

The automaker’s Texas plant is the only Toyota plant in the world running two different platforms on the same line, he says.

“When you look at the number of models we build, it is the fastest plant within Toyota in the world right now,” Sweers says, adding all configurations of the both the Tundra and Tacoma are built in San Antonio.

Tacoma Prices Up, But Content Added

The Tacoma for ’16 offers grades the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited. They replace the ’15-model strategy of offering packages for Access Cab and Double Cab body styles. A Regular Cab was discontinued in ’14.

The ’16 Tacoma ranges from $23,300 for a base SR grade with an Access Cab, 2-wheel drive and a carryover 159-hp 2.7L 4-cyl. engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission to $37,820 for the new high-end Limited grade. The latter includes leather seating, premium audio system, 4-wheel drive and what Toyota is calling an all-new powertrain: a 278-hp 3.5L V-6 with the automaker’s D-4S port- and direct-injection system mated to new 6-speed automatic.

Destination and handling is $900 for ’16 Tacomas.

While prices are up from the ’15 model, which ranged from $20,965-$37,615, not including a $885 destination and handling fee, Toyota officials say buyers of the ’16 get more standard content and a safer, stronger and quieter truck.

Standard across all ’16 grades is a touchscreen audio system as well as a rear backup camera. All ’16 Tacoma cabins also see an increase in high-strength steel content and the addition of ultra-high-strength steel, including Toyota’s first use of 1480 MPa-grade hot-stamped steel.

“The ultra-high-strength steel we put in the truck is three times stronger than the steel in the current generation,” Sweers says.

The Tacoma continues on as a serious off-roader, with Toyota offering a variety of technology for ’16 Off-Road models, including multi-terrain select and crawl control, standard on 4WD, automatic-equipped TRD Off-Road models.

Crawl control is a sort of cruise control for off-roading, allowing drivers to focus on steering as acceleration and brake pressure is automatically controlled.

An electronically controlled locking rear differential is standard on all TRD Off-Road models.

Given that 45% of Tacoma owners take their trucks off the pavement, Toyota’s advertising for the ’16 model is heavy on dirt and fun.

A rough-cut commercial for the new Tacoma ends with the tagline “Play Now” and features 20-somethings driving both the truck and dirt bikes in the desert.

Rick Lofaso, corporate marketing manager, expects the SR grade to account for 10% of the ’16 model’s mix, with 30% of buyers opting for the SR5, 7% the Limited and 52% the TRD models. About 28% of ’16 TRD Tacomas sold likely will be the Sport grade.

Tacoma buyers are 85%-90% male with an average age of 35.

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