PUTC: Let’s talk about the new CrewMax. This is a very big cab, and watching Dodge in this segment, it seems that they might not have found the acceptance of this pickup in the marketplace that they were looking for. What make Toyota confident that this is the crew cab that buyers are looking for?
Smith: The CrewMax is all about carrying people. It’s a really comfortable cab if you’ve had the chance to sit in the back seat. But what CrewMax offers that other competition doesn’t is the ability to also say I have the ability to put people in here but I also want to carry some cargo in the cab. I’ll give you an example. You go to the airport to pick up family members and you need to get four or five of them. If it’s raining outside you can put their luggage in the rear seat, if you slide the front seat forward, and prioritize that I want to carry some cargo back here or suitcases or shopping bags. You’re shopping at Christmas and it’s raining, many truck owners wouldn’t have that option.
PUTC: What’s the percentage split for the Tundra’s cab options?
Smith: Double Cab is clearly going to be the heart of the market. It meets the needs of a big segment of full size pickup owners. It’s probably going to be about 65% of the mix. The Regular Cab is going to be 10 to 15%. CrewMax we expect to be about 25%. I really expect it could grow from there as buyers realize that it gives you the capability of a truck full size pickup in every category. We saw the very strong payload and towing numbers that CrewMax is capable of. I think it’s going to grow.
PUTC: With Tundra’s deep coverage in the half-ton segment, and the stated intent to build market share in full size pickups, what about Toyota entering the heavy duty market? Any update here?
Smith: We understand that any full size, full line truck manufacturer is going to need to address that market and I hope that in the not too distant future we can give you a much clearer picture. It’s been under study, and we’ve announced it’s been under study for more than a year. I can’t give you any definite timing but we certainly are looking at it. It’s an exciting growth area for Toyota.
PUTC: We saw one of the Tundras on stage during the CrewMax introduction towing a Caterpillar Bobcat. Should we take any hint from this (with regards to Caterpillar’s diesel building reputation)?
Smith: Well, right now, as you know with our NASCAR race teams, we have a partnership with Caterpillar. Who knows where it will go from there.
PUTC: The specs for the full size pickup show that the V6 and V8 engines only suggest 87-octane fuel but the Tacoma V6 recommends its owners use premium gasoline. Are we reading this correctly?
Smith: The Tacoma does recommend the use of premium but this is to meet the numbers (for fuel economy and horsepower). However, premium fuel is not mandatory and Tacoma owners can use lower octane fuel if they like. When we listened to full size truck buyers, they said they wanted us to focus on regular grade fuel, which we’ve done. The numbers we communicated about the Tundra reflect the use of 87-octane fuel.
PUTC: So, now that the Tundra has been reviewed by journalists during the long lead and short lead press events (where first drives are provided to the media), what is the real world feedback you’re hearing? What’s the thing you hear most about the new Tundra? Especially from those journalists who’ve driven full size pickups regularly?
Smith: The number one comment I hear is, “Wow!” People get out, and to your point, many of the people who come to these events have pretty high expectations. They either know a lot about pickup trucks. They drive them a lot. They have a high level of expectation. Many of them know our existing Tundra and they know it does certain things very well, so I think it’s most suprising to people that they get out of the new Tundra and they realize the 10,800 pound towing capacity. The better than 2,000 pound payload, and it still drives that well. It’s really astounding. I can’t wait until you get behind the wheel. You need to call me and tell me what you think. (Editor’s note – we’ll have BJ Killeen’s first drive Tundra review later this week).
PUTC: Brian, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
Smith: Thank you.
Page: