Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three – Who Wins?

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In the coming year, the full-size truck market will change with several new introductions and updates in the ongoing war for the award of best truck in North America. While critics and diehards will point to sales and others to awards, what really does each manufacture need to do to win?

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three

Which truck has the most riding on it? All of them, these are big, profitable products for every maker.


Before we begin, it is important to point out that we are entering the season of auto shows and several new model unveilings. These new trucks will spell out the next several years for many manufactures. It is truly an important time in the full-size truck market.

In order to really talk about that full-size market let’s look at the latest sales numbers and then breakdown what each manufacture needs to do to increase their sales.

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three - Who Wins?

Thanks to Pickuptrucks.com for this sales chart of November, 2012 full-size trucks.

Most everyone is playing catch up to Ford. With its fleet sales and large customer base, Ford will be tough to catch, yet catching Ford isn’t everyone’s goal.

Truck Wars, Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra has had double-digit sales for months, can it keep it up?

Toyota

Many critics love to point out the Toyota Tundra’s faults like rust issues and a slew of recalls. And for the most part, they are right. The Tundra has had some issues with those items. However, it looks like future models will not. Without the quality issues plaguing it, the Toyota Tundra is primed to reach its true sales potential. Over the past year, the Tundra has posted double-digit percent sales gains over last year. While most of these gains can be tracked to the previous years shortage of trucks thanks to natural disasters that affected Japan, the real question is can the Tundra sustain double-digit sales growth without a diesel and/or 3/4 or 1-ton pickup? Supporters say yes that it is the best truck on the market. Domestic fan boys sneer.

Will win if …  the Tundra maintains double-digit sales and steals truck sales from the other competitors. Without a fleet truck or diesel/gas powered 3/4- or 1-ton pickup, many truck buyers are forced to buy another brand. However, if more consumers see the Tundra as the better “all-day, every-day” truck, it will have done its job of being a quality full-size Toyota truck option. This creates a brand legacy with young families buying their first Toyota passenger car to future purchases of mini-vans and full-size trucks.

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three

The Ford F-150 has been the sales leader for a while. Should Ford be concerned about the other competitors or will they slip up on their own?

Ford

The sales leader in full-size trucks, Ford doesn’t really need to do much to keep it going. Or does it? Ever since the end of production of the Ranger, Ford has been losing truck market share to Toyota. And if the new Toyota Tundra and/or GMC/Chevy truck sells well, it is reasonable to assume that Ford will lose more customers. It is true that Ford hasn’t been able to compete with Toyota in passenger car sales for years and really truck sales are its big profit engine. Ford is banking on the EcoBoost engine and a lighter weight truck/higher fuel economy model to keep its sales going.

Will win if …GMC/Chevy put out a lame product and the new Toyota Tundra isn’t appealing enough to fed up domestic truck buyers. Ford has such a big lead in full-size truck sales and fleet sales that something catastrophic would have to happen for that lead to go away completely. However, it could be chiseled away bit by bit.

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three

Not much more can be said about GM’s full-size trucks besides they are stale. Will a new version spike customer demand? GM sure hopes so.

GMC

For the first time in what seems like forever both the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado are getting a face lift. This badly needed update is for the government backed manufacture is a big deal since it has seen dwindling market share. This is also the first truck introduction post-bailout and lots of stakeholders are cautiously holding their breath.

Also, changing is the introduction of the High Country luxury package. Frankly, GMC has been way, way behind the eight-ball in releasing the ridiculously profitable luxury editions of their trucks.

Will win if … the new truck introduction event which live streams on Dec. 13 gets truck buyers on the edge of their seats. GMC really needs a big profitable truck to revamp interest and pay off U.S. taxpayers. Could this be the ticket?

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three

The Dodge Ram line of pickups has a good look, a good motor and a brand-new interior. Now, if it would just be safer to drive, sales should skyrocket.

Chrysler/Fiat

For years, the Dodge Ram has competed and frankly lost in the full-size truck market. However, that has been changing. The marketing around the Hemi engine and the revamping of the interior has been instrumental in the Ram truck. Many people consider the Laramie Longhorn as most luxurious Ram truck yet. These factors point to Chrysler/Fiat turning the truck and the company around.

Will win if … if the Ram truck can finally overcome the multitude of poor safety ratings it endures. The truth is that Chrysler/Fiat could probably sell more trucks if the pickup wasn’t consistently given a “poor” rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Consumer Reports, NHTSA crash safety ratings and JD Power’s Initial Quality Study. Those ratings do matter to consumers who want a “family” pickup truck. Chrysler/Fiat needs to get with the program.

Truck Wars, Toyota vs. the Big Three

Believe it or not, Honda still makes the Ridgeline. Our guess, you don’t believe us.

The Other Truck

A full-size truck list won’t be complete without mentioning the Honda Ridgeline. The reality though is that it has become an after-thought. Did you know they still built it? Probably not.

Will win if …truck buyers remember it exists.

Who will really be the big winner? It really remains to be seen, although, one fact is constant. Unless manufactures can figure out a way to get better gas mileage, full-size truck sales could go into a long sales slump.

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  1. BriBri says:

    As you know, sales volume, by itself, does not define a best truck. I would argue that ‘best truck’ is in the eye of the beholder. Each of the three makes (Toyota, Ford, and GM) – who brought Honda into this discussion? :) – have attributes that would make it the best truck for a particular buyer, based on the buyer’s wants/needs. There is much subjectivity is the evaluation.

    Ford and Chevy have a long heritage in the pickup truck market, which influences the perception many folks have of the vehicle’s quality. As well, marketing departments spend quite a boatload (or should I say ‘truck bed load’) of money on advertising the ‘Wow’ and ‘Cool’ superficial (appearance)factors, and less on mechanical/technical factors. They know that many, if not most, buyers of cars are sold on looks first, and then the less-visible factors (engine/drivetrain capability, cargo space, etc.). From automotive commercials I’ve seen lately, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same marketing people are designing the advertising for both cars and trucks.

    Moreover, so-called ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ testing/evaluation by the likes of Consumer Reports, Motor Trend, and Car and Driver are notorious for their biases toward particular automotive segments/vehicle types. So, their opinions have to be taken with a large grain of salt.

    When deciding on my purchase of a pick-up truck, I carefully evaluated and compared the Tundra, F-150, Silverado, and Ram, and decided that the Tundra satisfied my criteria as the best truck for me (I bought my 2012 Tundra just a few weeks ago).

    So, who will win the truck war? Does it really matter? As long as the options (i.e. brand, model, trim line, options packages, etc.) remain available for each prospective buyer to make their own decision as to what is ‘best’ for them, everyone should be happy.

  2. art64 says:

    Tundra is the oldest model of all. Based on 2007 model and has not changed significantly. Still getting good reviews be it reliability, resale value or power and drivability. I’m really happy about that. The other 3 have significantly changed their trucks over the years. Tundra is still kicking butt.

  3. ricqik says:

    im starting to think the ’14 tundra wont be new at all. rather it might just be a refresh like the taco. of course with new stuff n upgrades but may still be the same truck. hope im wrong..

  4. LJC says:

    The only thing useful data from these tests are those that actual measure what the truck can do in breaking, acceleration, etc. The subjective stuff, like looks, interior layout etc. is something one can do on their own.
    Now, with both datasets, all one needs to do is put a weight on the each metric. Add up the scores and you have a winner for YOU.

    For example, the interior looks didn’t matter much to me because anything new was a step up from where I was coming from. On the other hand, safety was weighed heavily–like I tell my wife and son: chances are you only get one shot in an accident.

    With this method/algorithm, picking a truck is a piece of cake.

  5. LJC says:

    One more thing: if one weighs practicality more heavily, which I believe should be done because trucks are getting wicked expensive, then Tundra is the clear winner.

  6. BriBri says:

    I don’t believe Toyota had any intention of dominating the U.S. truck market, at least in sales volume and market share. Ford and GM simply have such massive global scale, that it would take a miracle for Toyota to even come close. I still contend that in a side-by-side comparison of vehicles, with the same/similar options, Toyota wins as I feel you get the best bang for the buck.

  7. BriBri says:

    I hear you Hexmate. But, I am wondering where you are getting your figures from. I would like to see the documents/publications showing the $2 billion expenditure, as well as their 300K-to-400K unit sales goals. I especially find those sales goals hard to believe. But, maybe they were simply “shooting for the stars.”

    As far as opinions go, everyone is entitled to their own. However, the basis/rationale upon which one’s opinion is based can be questionable, particularly when we look at the loyalist/jingoistic mindset of many ‘domestic’ truck buyers. I believe that mindset is a high hurdle that Toyota has faced since entering the Tundra into the ring back in 2000, and moreso with the 2007 rebuild. If we could have a ‘blind taste test’ of similarly-outfitted full-size pickups, we might be surprised at the results.

    At the end of the day, I believe a significant factor in Ford/GM making sales is their reliance on the ‘heritage’ of their trucks, compared to the intrinsic qualities (fit/finish, technology, mechanicals, etc.) of the vehicle. Yes, that’s my opinion. But my opinion is based on the empirical evidence I glean from Ford’s/GM’s advertising efforts over the decades. Although, I do not discount their efforts to promote such items as the ecoBoost engine.

  8. Hexmate,

    You make some good points yet I wonder what’s the big picture of your complaint. Toyota sells the most cars worldwide, so spending 2 Billion or hell 2 Trillion is not a big deal. They have still been able to afford new product development and launch new cars. Losing money on the Tundra isn’t of any concern to them. Having a Toyota product in the full-size truck category is the real goal.

    So what, they didn’t hit there targets. Whoop-dee-do… They have proved they make a solid, safe truck and they have taken the time to fix their problems. When they are ready, they will go HD but I doubt they care when that is.

    I don’t think they ever really thought they would dominate the North American truck market. And why should they. This market only exists in one part of the world. They have long dominated the foreign markets through their Hilux.

    Tim

  9. BriBri says:

    Hexmate,
    I am not certainly not in denial, about Toyota or anything. From the tone of your reply, it sounds like you have a genuine dislike for Toyota (are you a domestic ‘fanboy’?). And, your reference to a journalist’s speculation about Toyota’s game plan regarding the San Antonio and Princeton plants surely does not constitute a “business plan”.

    Reading into the intent behind your rant, I am not sure this (Tundra Headquarters) is the appropriate forum for you.

  10. Hexmate,

    Berating me doesn’t help your case. I’m going to take the higher road here and not respond to your allegations about my business knowledge. That doesn’t have any place in our discussion.

    And please re-read my comment, I merely pointed out that the Hilux dominates its segment. I didn’t say anything about worldwide vehicles sales across the board.

    Again, I ask what is your point? You are so upset that Toyota spent $2 billion, but I don’t understand what that has to do with you? Did you lose money on Toyota, are you an upset investor???

    -Tim

  11. Bryan says:

    So, the Honda Ridgeline is “the forgotten truck”? If its the forgotten truck, why is there no mention of the Nissan Titan?

    I’m not a raving fan of the Titan by any means (I’m a MOPAR guy), but you’d think the import-centric site/post would at least remember the third part of the import brand trio… :)

    • BriBri says:

      Bryan…
      The Ridgeline, while it may ‘look’ like a truck, is actually pretty soft when you look at the specs. The engine is quite soft for a ‘truck’ – you wouldn’t be towing much with the Ridgeline. The bed is relatively short (5′) – you wouldn’t be hauling anything too large. It doesn’t really have any significant off-road capability (considering wheel/tire and suspension setup). The Ridgeline is more of an SUV (with a bed) that would cater to soccer-mom types rather than serious truck buyers. And, it’s not a fair comparison to the Titan – the Titan is a capable pick-up truck, in every sense of the word.

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