|Quality Concerns Rock the New Toyota Tundra
not easy making a full size truck
Toyota thought the launch of the all new Tundra was going to
be a slam dunk, it didn't take long for the pickup to earn
First, in March, the Tundra unexpectedly fell one star short of
a perfect five-star safety rating in head-on collisions testing
by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
while the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, and GMC Sierra
all scored five stars. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety (IIHS) later awarded the Tundra with its 2008 ‘Top Safety Pick’ award – the
first time a pickup has been recognized by the IIHS for this honor.
Next, in May, came word of snapping camshafts in at least 20 of the Tundra’s
new 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engines, due to a manufacturing defect at the supplier.
Toyota replaced the entire engine in Tundra’s with camshaft problems.
Drivetrain glitches continued throughout the remainder of 2007.
October Toyota confirmed reports of vibrations in Tundras with
6-speed transmissions as the transmission changed gears accelerating
and decelerating. Toyota traced the ‘rumble
strip’ problem to an issue with the torque converter. And in December a
recall was issued for 15,600 Tundras, to fix an improperly heat-treated joint
in the rear propeller shaft on 4WD trucks.
Finally, owners self-reported and posted pictures online of cracking
tailgates that appeared after loading cargo into the back of the
Tundra. Toyota agreed to replace the tailgate of any new Tundra
damaged during ‘normal’ use.
Even before the last of the Tundra’s quality challenges was reported, Toyota’s
head of global manufacturing, Takeshi Uchiyamada, candidly admitted to Automotive
News that the problems had caused “shame” within the company. Uchiyamada-san
said the cause was Toyota’s rapid product expansion and new manufacturing
Hopefully 2008 will be a better year for Tundra quality.
|Truck Sales Hit a Wall While Fuel Prices Hit the Ceiling
Economic pressures shrink trucks sales
2007 wasn't a kind month for pickup truck sales,
and neither was most of 2007 for that matter.
in all segments shrank 11.2% from a year earlier, and overall
year-to-date sales fell 5.5%. Pickup
sales slowed all year as fuel prices rose to near-record levels
and residential housing starts and contracting jobs fell off
a cliff. Non-core truck buyers, not needing a pickup for work
or hauling toys, started shifting to smaller vehicles.
as high as $6,500 were placed on hoods as pickups piled up on
lots and average dealer turnover rates ballooned well past 100-days
for most brands. 60-days average turnover is considered to be
new Toyota Tundra was the only top ten selling pickup to enter
positive sales territory for the year. Tundra sales were up 57.7%
Continued declines in pickup sales could cause big financial problems
for Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors because pickup trucks generate
almost all of their profits.
Detroit Three plan to cut production of full-size pickups for
part or all of January 2008, in an effort to rebalance inventory
levels with consumer demand.
Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for J.D.
Power and Associates, says he doesn't see demand for pickup trucks
turning upward until the fourth quarter of 2008.
|Diesel Pickups Come Clean
New federal emissions limits are making
oil burners as clean as gassers
truck drivers have long known the performance benefits of diesel
engines. They offer high torque at low RPMs, to make towing big
loads easy, while returning superior fuel economy over comparable
gasoline engines. But they've also been known
for dirty, smelly exhaust.
That changed forever on January 1, 2007, when all consumer diesel
engines built and sold in the U.S. had to meet tough new ‘Tier 2 Bin 5’ emissions
regulations. Tier 2 Bin 5 cut soot by ten-times and nitrogen oxide (NOX) levels
by two-fold, to .01-grams/mile of particulates and .07-grams/mile of NOX.
The new diesel emissions equipment includes diesel particulate filters (DPF)
and NOX scrubbers that increased the cost of some 2007 model year diesel-powered
pickups by $1,500 over 2006 model year trucks.
Oil companies played a role too, refining new ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD)
fuel that reduced sulfur content from 500-parts-per-million to 15-ppm, so the
diesel fuel wouldn't gum up the new emissions equipment.
Tougher NOX regulations for 2010 are expected to boost engine and maintenance
costs even higher. But with fuel prices steadily climbing and diesel engines
about to trickle down from heavy to light duty pickups, clean diesels are likely
to grow in sales numbers as truck owners seek out the best combination of mileage
and power in all truck segments.