There's a new truck about to hit the field and it's not a Chevy, a Ford or a Dodge. Toyota is set to launch a full-size line of Tundra models in March. And this one is really full-size — not just a Japanese idea of “full-size”.
That may be because this Tundra concept was conceived, tested and will be produced almost entirely in the U.S. rather than abroad.
Most important launch
“This will be the single most important launch in Toyota's 50-year history,” says Brian Smith, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., corporate manager for truck operations. “It's by far the most American project in our company's history.”
In spite of retaining the name “Tundra”, the new Tundra will share almost nothing with its original concept except Toyota's commitment to quality.
Even Toyota's marketing approach has been revamped specifically for the purpose of capturing the American truck driver's attention.
When asked how Toyota planned to sell a Japanese pickup to an American farmer, Joe Tetherow, Toyota's national manager of field communications replied, “Well, we don't expect them to come to us, so we're going to go to them.”
Going straight to the “bell cows” on a local level is just what Toyota plans to do with its vertical marketing strategy. Don't be surprised to see the 2007 Tundra at local farm shows, country and western music venues or any number of other localized events that typically draw farmers.
“The success of the new Tundra will involve more than marketing a great truck, it will require selling the Toyota brand,” Smith says. “We need to reach truck buyers who previously never considered a Toyota product. This will be particularly important in America's heartland, where Toyota has not penetrated the market as strongly as other regions and where trucks are an integral tool in the daily lives of many.”
The local focus will be backed by regional and national marketing efforts and will include sponsorships of such events as NASCAR, BASS, the Citgo Bassmaster Tournament Trail, the Brooks & Dunn “Long Haul” concert tour and many others.
For the construction and home improvement trucker, Toyota has teamed up with 84 Lumber to participate in store grand openings and customer appreciation events.
“For the new Tundra to meet its lofty sales goals in such a highly competitive segment, we must deliver a message that leaves no stone unturned,” Smith says. “We feel our well thought-out comprehensive marketing campaign will be instrumental in helping us win over the most loyal vehicle owners in the U.S.”
Positioning itself as almost entirely American is one of the key marketing strategies Toyota is employing with the newly designed Tundra. From concept to design to manufacturing, the company has gone to great lengths to make sure the vehicle is “Americanized” to every extent possible.
True American truck
“For the all-new Tundra to succeed in the U.S. we know it will need to meet every need of the American truck buyer, and then some” Smith says. “We felt the best way to meet this challenge was to make Tundra a true American truck. To do this, every aspect of its development began and ended in the U.S.”
Tundra's entire engineering development program was controlled and coordinated at Toyota's Motor Engineering and Manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's the first time the complete responsibility for a Toyota product has taken place outside of Japan, according to Smith.
Even though the new Tundra won't start rolling off assembly lines and showing up in showrooms until March, dealers, sales representatives and service technicians have already been through extensive training in preparation for the new truck. In fact, Toyota has even renovated its service bays, showrooms and parking lots to accommodate the full-size Tundra.
No down time policy
To accommodate the truck buyer who essentially uses his truck as an everyday tool, Toyota has implemented a “no down time” policy in its service department. Dealers will add Tundras to their loaner fleets so that owners will not have to use a Camry to go to work while their vehicle is being serviced.
Each Toyota dealership also has a “Truck Champion” on its sales force who has gone through (or will go through) extensive training on the new Tundra before launch. In addition to a three-day hands-on training seminar, Truck Champions will have access to Toyota's inner circle of product engineers and experts to facilitate a flow of information back and forth from the customer to Toyota.
“The new Tundra is 100 percent customer driven,” Smith says.
Whether or not Toyota will succeed in capturing a substantial portion of the highly competitive full-size U.S. truck market remains to be seen. Farmers, for one, tend to be fiercely loyal to their pickup of choice. That doesn't seem to be fazing Toyota, however.
“This is a very different Tundra,” Smith says. “It will attract a different buyer than Toyota has traditionally courted. We built this truck for the buyer who punishes and demands a lot of a truck.”