Ramble On – Shared Burdens
The automotive world is fairly ablaze right now with armchair experts crying foul over platform sharing. One of the more notable examples is Toyota approaching BMW about a jointly developed sports car project, with one result the G29-generation Z4 roadster and the other the Supra A90 coupe. Critics probably unfairly reduce the Supra to a steel-roofed Z4 and nothing more.
A similar argument exists comparing the $167,725 Bentley Bentayga and the $200,000 Lamborghini Urus to the Audi Q7 and Euro-market Volkswagen Touareg, sub-$60k SUVs that donate their modular bones to those machines. Could a six-figure Bentley or Lamborghini possibly be special enough to justify their price tags if they share a Volkswagen-designed platform with an Audi that costs less than a third of the price?
Traditionally stodgy and reserved Rolls-Royce even took a few shots at Bentley when it was building excitement for the Cullinan SUV, which shares a platform with the Phantom sedan, not the BMW X7 SUV. "You don't want a camouflaged Q7 in that segment," said company CEO Torsten M ller- tv s. "You want to have a true Rolls-Royce."
But really, is platform sharing that big a deal? It certainly makes good business sense, since a vehicle architecture that's profitable at $54,000 is a veritable cash cow at $254,000.
And anyone I know who has actually driven the Bentley and the Lamborghini say that both SUVs have done a good job of differentiating themselves from each other—and from Audi. The Urus is as bombastic as one might expect of a Lambo, while the Bentayga is more understated, thanks in part to its available, woofling W-12 engine. Both come with distinctive interior treatments, brand-faithful exteriors, and price tags to match their placement in the Volkswagen Automotive Group hierarchy. To most consumers, they might as well share nothing except four wheels and an engine in front.
Hopefully those consumers will feel the same when they drive the next-generation Toyota Tundra and Tacoma, which are expected to consolidate onto a single truck platform called F1. Unfortunately, this tactic could prove a bit more disastrous for Toyota's trucks than it does for the backroad-sweetheart Supra.
There are several potential pitfalls of a shared architecture between two different pickup size classes. If the platform isn't strong enough, it won't be able to handle the heavy payloads and tough towing situations modern consumers expect of a -ton pickup. If it's too robust and overbuilt, it will be too heavy to be competitive in the midsize segment. And unfortunately, both -ton capability and midsize efficiency are areas where Toyota currently brings up the rear. Putting the Tundra and Tacoma on the same platform could put both at risk of falling even further behind in those metrics.
If I were a gambling man, I'd put money on Toyota prioritizing the F1 platform for the hot-selling Tacoma midsizer—giving it world-class off-road capability, a light-hearted driving experience, and city-friendly dimensions—then scaling it up for Tundra duty. Honestly, that should be fine for most current owners, as the truck is already something of a niche product (the Tundra accounted for about 5 percent of fullsize pickup sales in 2018).
And if it yields a slightly smaller, nimbler Tundra with improved off-road capability, then so much the better. If I'm lucky, the new Tundra could even be something of a redux of the old T100 pickup—more capability than a little truck but with plenty of off-road skill and big-truck work ethic.
Asked off the cuff, I'm not a fan of platform-sharing in general, but when done well, it results in two (or more) vehicles with distinctive character and sold for less than if they were developed separately. Hopefully that'll be the case for the forthcoming F1-platform Toyota Tacoma and Tundra.