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Toyota FTX: 9/8th Scale Concept Pickup Points to 2007 Tundra
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-05-04 06:50 PT

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A company like Toyota doesn't get caught very often with its guard down, but the timing of the FTX Concept introduction shows Toyota is feeling the heat from Nissan's new Titan, Ford's redesigned F-150 and widespread criticism that the current Tundra is only a '7/8th' scale full-size pickup. The rapidly changing market is quickly leaving Toyota behind.

Toyota's response so far to these competitive challenges has been the recent introduction of its all new Tundra Double Cab - a truck that has larger interior dimensions than either the Titan or F-150 but is still limited by a weaker powertrain, performance numbers and factory constrained production volumes.

So, what to do to prove Toyota is serious about building market share in full-size pickups? Provide a sneak peak of its next truck as quickly as possible in the form of the FTX.

The FTX was jointly designed by Toyota's Advanced Product Strategy Group and Calty, Toyota's North American-based research and design center located in Newport Beach, California.

Its size is literally the biggest indicator of how much pressure Toyota's designers must have been under. To clearly state that they 'get it' the designers created a 9/8th scale 'super light-duty' pickup. The FTX could have been called Big Blue.

The designers looked to Toyota's truck heritage for styling cues that reflect Toyota's lauded Land Cruiser and elements from last year's FJ40 concept SUV to provide the FTX with character and soul.

To visually emphasize full-size truck strength, Kevin Hunter, Calty vice president, says the FTX's brawny front end reflects "the power of a fist while the rest of the truck is a muscular arm pushing that fist forward."

Senior Calty designer, Craig Kember, also pointed to the customized and lifted full size pickups often seen in Southern California's Orange County as a key influence in the creation of the FTX's commanding ride height.

Kember added that, "[The FTX] is a truck for the good old boys. It's a full-size truck they can feel confident driving as a Toyota. American core truck buyers are our market."

If you look closely, you may also spot some influence from Volkswagen's Advanced Activity Concept that was shown at the 2000 NAIAS. AAC styling is particularly prominent in the side view proportions, cab configuration and rear end. This is ironic, perhaps, because Ferdinand Piech, the former chairman of Volkswagen AG who gave the green light to the AAC, has been a long time fan of the Tundra.

The cab configuration is especially unique. From the outside it looks like an extended cab but the interior has the space of a double cab. It was rumored amongst journalists that the roofline of the FTX is the same as the next Tundra.

Kember calls the FTX's interior a "fusion of brawny structure, intelligent design and sophisticated materials."

Inside a "flying T" console separates the driver from the front passenger and also houses the instrument panel and a large 3D information display panel.

The front seats feature huge grab handles for keeping steady under the most intense driving conditions while the rear seats wrap around the back of the cab similar to boat seating and fold away to provide ample indoor stowage space.

The FTX's engine is a hybrid V8 gasoline-electric that builds on Toyota's strengths and good reputation in alternative powertrains.

Jim Press, Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president and COO says the hybrid motor promises to pump out loads of torque while delivering V6 fuel efficiency. Press provided no specific numbers but did say, "expect to see Toyota's next full size pickup offer a hybrid powertrain sometime after its debut. It would be an excellent engine for a heavy duty truck."

Press also provided details about the next Tundra, which will be built at a new plant in San Antonio, Texas for the 2007 model year; 2006 production year.

Toyota will continue to build body-on-frame using an all new full-size truck platform developed specifically for the next generation Tundra but it may have other possible applications outside of North America. This new frame will not be shared with any other future Toyota pickups, unlike Nissan's Titan chassis which will be shared with the all new 2005 Nissan Frontier.

Toyota will continue to build regular cabs even though the demand for these kind of trucks has dropped significantly over the past several years in favor of extended and double cab pickups. Press expects to see the bulk of regular cab Tundras used for commercial fleet sales.

And finally, Press "expects to see the next generation Tundra lead the full-size truck class in all significant areas" when it bows in two years.

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