What happens when the two biggest car companies in the world come out with all-new trucks in the largest market at the same time? Here's a clue: Both are made in America solely for the truck-crazy market--and you can expect the head-to-head battle to be fierce. The two heavy hitters in this fight aren't Ford and Chevy, but Chevy and Toyota.
Make no mistake: GM's new GMT900 is critically important for the company's stability and survival. Typically worth over 400,000 vehicle sales per year, the Chevy Silverado has come out of the gate with all of its cab and bed configurations ready to supply every new and emerging niche in the truck-buying marketplace. Clearly, GM had a long way to go to catch up to or even surpass the other five half-ton truck-makers, but now it has its sights on being the segment leader in power, style, and handling.
On the other side of the battle, with a good amount of truck study behind it, Toyota is fully cocked and ready to fire off its most important full-size shot to date. It can be argued that the new Tundra (bigger and stronger) will be Toyota's first real full-size truck for this market. Toyota is exercising caution by not releasing too much information at one time, but judging by what we've seen at the last SEMA show (look for full coverage in our next issue) and heard through the grapevine, the new Tundra looks like a serious player. With an all-new plant in the heart of truck country, Toyota has the ability to make new Tundras, Sienna minivans, and Toyota Sequoias in whatever combination it likes. That means there'll be two plants in the U.S. ready to make full-size Tundras (Princeton, Indiana, and San Antonio, Texas). Toyota executives won't be happy until Tundra sales hit 200,000 units per year, basically double what they are today. While Toyota won't steal many Ford or Chevy loyalists, Dodge and Nissan buyers, notoriously price conscious, could be more easily persuaded. And, of course, Toyota has a ready stock of current Tundra and Tacoma buyers (more than 200,000 per year) that could be ready for something bigger.
Bottom line: There's a fight for truck supremacy out there, and the battleground is going to get bloody.
Unfortunately, detailed information on the upcoming Tundra is not yet available. You'll see more in upcoming issues of Truck Trend (see sidebar). Until then, here's how the Chevy goes head to head with the Tundra.