The full-size truck market is witnessing a sales boom and manufactures are changing their products rapidly to capture new sales and market share. This flurry of activity is creating a buzz among consumers who have long clamored for improvements. Everybody is seemingly busy with new innovative products that deliver radically improvements in mpgs. Well, everybody except for Toyota. Did they misread the market?
Earlier this month, GM revealed its brand new Chevy Colorado at the Los Angeles Auto Show. While the truck features a new exterior and interview, the big news is that it will have the new powertrain options which include a 2.8-liter inline-four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine. This diesel engine offering in a compact truck is big news for that segment which has struggled to find its way in the last several years. The new diesel engine combined with active grille shutters and a drop in weight from previous models is intended to make the truck achieve really improved mpgs. With a new compact diesel offering from GM, a diesel in a Silverado 1500 isn’t that far behind.
Matching GM’s diesel plan is Ram which announced it will offer a diesel in its 1500 next year. This new 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 “Ecodiesel” has been generating a buzz lately throughout automotive circles with testing showing it can achieve upwards of 19 city/26 hwy. Even though this truck will have an upcharge over the Hemi 5.7L, customers have been paying more for trucks in recent years. With the fuel savings and the amount of miles some consumers put on their truck, the return on investment period could be relatively short.
What about Ford? They aren’t jumping on the diesel bandwagon quite yet and instead are focused on building a lighter truck. The brand new 2015 Ford F-150 is set to be unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. If rumors are to be believed, the new F-150 will take a lot of ideas from the Atlas concept that Ford unveiled at the 2013 show. Importantly, it will have active grille shutters and aluminum – lots of aluminum. Ford is planning on dropping as much as 700lbs from the truck which should result in a 7 percent increase in fuel economy. The result could be an lighter, still strong and highly fuel efficient F-150 with Ecoboost. This truck could keep the competitors at bay and ensure Ford retains its title as the best-selling pickup in North America.
Meanwhile, Toyota has announced no future powertrain plans. Toyota’s Chief Tundra Engineer, Mike Sweers has been adamant about defending his engine since the unveil in Chicago. He claims that it is still a top competitor among engines and is still one of the most technologically advanced engine on the market according to a recent AutoLine After Hours interview.
Sweers also points out that third-party outlets like Consumer Reports have consistently found that the combined fuel economy of trucks is about same between the Tundra and other trucks. He also says that real-world fuel economy results show the Tundra is still competitive.
The problem, though is that the market is driven by fuel economy claims and what’s on the sticker. For example, the EPA estimates on GM 5.3L EcoTec engine are 16/22/18 city/highway/combined in a crew cab, 4wd model and third-party publications are finding the Ram Ecodiesel, crew cab, 4wd model gets mpg 19/26/21 city/highway/combined. For comparison, the Toyota Tundra 5.7L V-8 in a crew cab, 4wd gets 13/17/15 city/highway/combined. That is quite a big difference on paper.
As new truck models are coming out it is becoming clearer that Toyota has misread the market. While they focused on updating their current model with a new interior and, somewhat polarizing, exterior, everybody else is focused on what customers are asking for – better mpgs. As Sweers likes to say, Toyota is different in that they focus on quality, reliability and dependability. The problem for Toyota is that the customer isn’t focused on that right now.
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