As U.S. consumers flock to showrooms in search of big trucks, Toyota Motor Corp. hopes to cash in on the craze with the launch of a revamped Tundra full-size pickup.

The automaker unveiled its 2018 Toyota Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday. Together with a mini facelift and updated standard safety features, the new truck is set to hit dealer lots this summer.

The most noticeable aesthetic on the 2018 Tundra full-size pickup is the freshened front end that features new grille designs and headlamps.

The base SR and SR5, have a new mesh look complemented by halogen headlights with a black bezel. The Tundra Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition get a billet-style grill and LED headlights. All trims are now equipped with LED Daytime Running Lights as standard.

Toyota tundra TRD Pickup Truck side

2018 Toyota Tundra. (Photo: Ryan ZumMallen/Trucks.com)

But the engine choices continue unchanged. A 4.6-liter V8 engine is available with 310 horsepower, along with a 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower.

The Tundra plays an important role in Toyota’s U.S. portfolio. In 2016, light trucks – which includes pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers – accounted for 60 percent of all vehicle sales, up from 55 percent in 2015. Sales of full-size pickup trucks grew by 2.7 percent in 2016.

Yet the Tundra has failed to gain traction against full-size heavy hitters from Ford, Chevrolet and Ram.

Toyota sold about 115,000 Tundras in 2016, which is a far cry from sales of nearly 490,000 Ram pickups, 575,000 Siverados and more than 820,000 F-Series trucks.

 

Full size pickup truck sales 2016

(Source: Autodata Corp.)

Tundra sales also contracted 2.9 percent in 2016, and its market share in the segment shrunk from 5.4 percent in 2015 to 5.1 percent in 2016.

“There’s very little that Tundra can do to challenge the other three in terms of sales volume,” said Stephanie Brinley, analyst for global market research firm IHS Markit. “So what Toyota and Tundra need to work on is making sure the truck they produce is profitable and meeting the needs of their customers.”

Toyota does not offer a heavy duty full-size truck, Brinley said, which other brands sell for higher prices and can increase credibility among truck enthusiasts.

In addition, competitors have introduced new models or made significant improvements in recent years, and the Tundra has struggled to keep pace. Market research firm J.D. Power classifies the Tundra as not having a full refresh since 2007.

And the new truck does not take measures to improve fuel economy – its most efficient 2017 trim earned a last-in-class EPA rating of 16 mpg for combined city and highway driving.

Toyota tundra TRD Pickup Truck

2018 Toyota Tundra. (Photo: Ryan ZumMallen/Trucks.com)

Despite Toyota’s struggle to make inroads with the Tundra, its mid-sized Tacoma pickup truck is still the top dog in its segment. The Tacoma sold more than 190,000 units in 2016 and captured 45.1 percent market share.

This illustrates Toyota’s familiarity with mid-sized trucks, compared to a steep learning curve for larger ones, Brinley said.

“Full-size pickup trucks are largely [in the U.S.] and in really small volumes anywhere else,” she said. “Tacoma is a global product that has been successful in a lot of different markets. I think that’s why it’s easier for Toyota to get their head around the Tacoma.”

Historically, one bright spot for the Tundra has been its array of standard features. New for 2018, all trim levels include the Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) package at no added cost. TSS-P includes:

  • Lane Departure Alert
  • Auto High Beams
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that maintains a safe distance with the car ahead by speeding up or slowing down on its own
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection that activates audio and visual alerts to warn the driver of a possible accident, followed by automated braking to reduce or avoid the collision if necessary\

“Safety is one of the driving motives of why people choose one vehicle over another,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “It should certainly help to compete against Chevy and Ford, but I don’t know whether by itself it’s enough to really significantly move the needle on their sales.”

“I think they’re trading on their brand and the fact they do have a loyal fanbase,” Sargent said.

The Tundra’s reliability and strong resale value are also among its best attributes, he said. “From a consumer standpoint it’s a really good vehicle but I think they do struggle in terms of image.”

The 2018 Tundra may not be a significant leap forward, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, Brinley said.

Toyota tundra TRD Pickup Truck

Toyota Tundra TRD. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota also used the Chicago show to debut an off-road focused Tundra TRD Sport, outfitted by the brand’s Toyota Racing Development unit. The Tundra TRD Sport is equipped with TRD Sport Tuned Bilstein Shocks and TRD anti-sway bars both front and rear for added performance. Tundra TRD Sport models will be powered by the 5.7L V8 engine and could energize Toyota enthusiasts, Sargent said.

“Special editions and adding new models are really good at reaching the vehicle loyalists and it gives them something to be excited about,” she said. “Even if they don’t buy right now.”

Toyota will announce price information closer to when the 2018 Tundra goes on sale this fall.

Related: Trucks Lead Soaring Automotive Transaction Prices

12 Responses

    • Jerry Hirsch
      Jerry Hirsch

      Toyota will announce price information closer to when the 2018 Tundra goes on sale this fall.

      Reply
  1. John Eutsey

    Way to go Toyota, another year of falling behind. Was looking forward to a Tundra Diesel for the past few years I’m done! GMC can have my sixtty grand !

    Reply
  2. Ben

    So much for getting the new 2018 tundra. I have a 2007 and I’m not waiting anymore. I guess I get a duramax now. Sad, had a 2003 sequoia and a 2006 4runner, now have a 2007 tundra, 2011 sequoia. I bought into the D4s and 8/10 speed hype for 2018. FAIL!

    Reply
  3. Mike

    If it aint broke , don’t fix it.

    My brother has a 2017 F150 King Ranch and he has said ‘ One more GD problem with this thing and I’m going to drive it right through the dealers showroom window’

    My 2012 Tundra has 178K and I will be trading it this coming fall for a 2018 TRD….no problems no headaches that’s Toyota.

    Reply
    • Scot

      Hey Mike, sure might be interested in buying your Tundra this fall. Please let me know…

      Reply
  4. Danny Kermicle

    The Tundra is the ugliest truck on the market and has been since they changed the body style. I’ve got one and love it, but it’s UGLY. If they would make the Tundra a good looking truck like the Tacoma is, it would sell better. Then they could get 45% of the big truck market.

    Reply
  5. Randy

    Agreed Danny K! The grille, headlight, hood scoop design is clunky, & ugly. How hard is it to analyze popular truck styling from the past & retro design something for today? Look at 1/2 tons from 1967 – 1972 Chevy, 73 – 79 F-series, 88 – 97 Chevy trucks, they were true to conservative clean lines, not the humongous chrome grilles common today. Example, the 2017 Super Duty makes me puke, I’d order flat black to hide all the body lines. Get back to clean, classic styling, with Toyota reliability and the too big 3 will wither.

    Side note, glad Toyota haven’t succumb to the cylinder deactivation common these days.

    Reply
  6. Doug

    I’m really surprised Toyota doesn’t do more to make the Tundra competitive with the domestics. It’s not a bad truck but without a heavy duty option, and better fuel economy in their gas engines I feel like Toyota is still living 10 years in the past when this true full size truck was introduced. Toyota has a ton of cash for R&D but I guess it feels that resale and reliability is enough to sell their 100K units per year while the domestics keep get better and more reliable.

    Reply
  7. Mark Hansen

    Just sold my 2005 Tundra with 241,000 miles on it. This was the first Toyota I ever owned. By far the best, most reliable vehicle I have ever had. All I ever did to it was brakes, oil, tires, and the timing belts…absolutely love that Toyota reliability. I own a business that requires lots of miles on my truck, so guess what I replaced it with? You guessed it, a 2016 Tundra Platinum (love the look by the way). Planning on 300,000 worry free miles on this baby as well. With that kind of proven track record for reliability, why would I even consider a truck from the big 3??

    Reply

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