Toyota to unveil Tacoma in Detroit
Toyota Motor Corp. doesn't plan to sit idle as General Motors Co. re-enters the U.S. mid-size pickup segment, which the Japanese automaker has dominated for years.
Robert S. Carter, Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. senior vice president of automotive operations, said the automaker will unveil an all-new Tacoma mid-size pickup next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"It's been a bread-and-butter vehicle for us for many years," he told reporters following the announcement Thursday in Detroit. "We're really pleased to be showing it in Detroit."
Carter did not provide any details about the new Tacoma. It was last fully redesigned a decade ago.
Toyota — with 70 percent of all small truck sales in 2013 — has dominated the mid-size pickup segment, particularly since the domestic automakers exited the market following the recession.
GM phased out its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups in 2012. Detroit rivals Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC ended production of the Ford Ranger and Dodge Ram Dakota, respectively, in 2011. The domestic automakers pulled out of the market due to regulations and the segment shrinking.
Carter said he sees GM's new mid-size pickups helping bring attention to what is becoming a "very vibrant segment," following a decline to less than 2 percent of all U.S. auto sales in recent years.
From 2002 to 2013, small-pickup sales declined from 5.2 percent (867,809 trucks) of U.S. sales to about 1.5 percent (227,111). But that could change next year, with GM's 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon now in dealerships and a new Tacoma on its way.
"It's extremely active right now," he said. "With the entries (from GM), we know the interest in that segment is going to accelerate."
Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz told The Detroit News during the Los Angeles Auto Show last month that he doesn't see the Colorado and Canyon attracting the same type of buyer as the Tacoma, which he described as a largely male buyer looking for a small, sporty pickup.
"I think they're going more at what they view the mainstream segment to be based on their full-size truck experience," he said. "I think we're actually going to probably attract very different buyers in that segment."
Toyota sold about 159,500 Tacomas last year, a 12.8 percent increase from 2012. Through November, Tacoma sales are down 4.1 percent compared to 2013 to 140,757. Executives say the decline is largely due to supply constraints, which the company is in the midst of rectifying by adding a third shift to its Tacoma plant in Mexico.
Michelle Krebs, AutoTrader director of automotive relations, said the Tacoma has needed a shot in the arm for a number of years, and right now is a great time to introduce the third-generation pickup.
"The whole pickup truck market has been increasing," she said. "That is an old truck, and it did well as being leader in the segment but now it's got some competition.
"It's interesting that they're going to unveil it in GM's backyard."
The Tacoma unveiling will come just over a year after GM unveiled the Colorado during the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, the largest midsize pickup truck market and home of Toyota'a North American headquarters.
Toyota's Lexus luxury division also plans to unveil two performance models at the 2015 Detroit auto show, which is open to the public from Jan. 17-25. Automakers are expected to unveil dozens of new cars and trucks during press days of the show on Jan. 12-13. The 2014 show featured 50 vehicle debuts.
Separately, Carter said Toyota expects to sell about 2.3 million cars and trucks in the U.S. in 2014, up from 2.2 million in 2013. The Camry, he said, is expected to remain the best-selling car in America for the 13th-consecutive year.
"All three of our brands — Toyota, Lexus and Scion — are really enjoying the recovery that's happening throughout the U.S.," he said. "Certainly, I feel very confident, very bullish where the auto industry is going, and where we're going."
The U.S. auto industry is on track to sell about 16.5 million cars and trucks in 2014 — a 900,000 increase from 2013 and its best year since it sold 16.6 million in 2006.