Why You Really Can’t Special Order a Toyota

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Recently Al-Futtaim Motors based in Dubai, UAE, was featured in an article talking about how they are starting to offer custom Toyota vehicles to their customers. Obviously this grabbed our attention, but is it true?

Special Order Toyota

Ordering a custom built Tundra to your exact specs sounds cool, but it really isn't an option.

Technically, customizing a product is called bespoking. And there are some examples of bespoking throughout the automotive industry especially in luxury and high-performance bands. The article states that “Al-Futtaim Motors (AFM) is working on a bespoke solution that would allow new Toyota owners to customise (sic) their vehicles to a good extent.”

Why doesn’t this makes sense to us? We have long understood that very smart Toyota planners develop a master production plan in anticipation of what the market is going to want. Parts are then ordered from suppliers based on Toyota’s master product plan; i.e., if Toyota determines that 10% of Tundra owners will want moonroofs, they call the moonroof supplier and order a specific volume of roofs based on that number.

Then, Toyota’s factories build the trucks in a pre-determined number of configurations as stated by the projection; i.e., “today we’re building 100 red trucks, 74 blue trucks, 188 SR5’s, 16 platinums, etc.” – it’s very formulaic.

If/when a dealer orders a vehicle, all Toyota will do is try to match the order against a truck that was already going to be built. If a dealer orders a configuration that Toyota never planned for (like, for example, a regular cab with leather), the truck NEVER gets built. The plan is paramount, and orders that don’t fit the plan don’t get filled.

There are opportunities to fix the plan at certain points in the year. For instance, if the demand for moon roofs exceeds expectations, Toyota can re-do their plan during production. This could also happen if enough dealers order the same unique configuration.

The advantages in this system are obvious: The limited number of configurations reduces the complexity of the assembly process (reducing error and improving quality), and because there’s a master plan, parts from suppliers are used the day they arrive and Toyota never ever buys more parts than they need.

The disadvantage is that, unlike Ford and GM (and Ram), it’s impossible for a customer to special-order a Toyota. Ford, GM, and Ram use many of the same processes, but they’re a lot more flexible in terms of what they’re willing to build, so customers are much more likely to get exactly what they want.

There is a bit of a work-around, however, and it’s referred to by Toyota as a port installed option. Basically, Toyota will add additional options to a vehicle at the “port” (which could be an actual port, but could also be a distribution point inside the U.S.). These options are easy to install items like exhaust systems, floor mats, and other accessories.

Thus, we are thinking that AFM is basically talking about port installing some options that customers want above and beyond what they already do. Considering how easy it is to add a leather interior to a car, a sunroof, a new stereo, etc., there’s quite a bit that can be done under the guise of port installation.

However, Toyota’s essential production practices remain unchanged – they’re still not allowing customers to special order anything.

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  1. mk says:

    Man, that pic of the tundra in that tan color is downright fugly. Also, to have metal round holes in the seat fabric is very odd, never seen that before nor would want it. The issue I have is what I consider ‘special order’ where I live should be reasonable to expect. Say, the 2012 DC 5.7L stock SR5 tundra with upgraded 18″ alloy wheels is nowhere to be found in a 500 mile radius in my color choice which is very likely to happen since most Toyota dealers have only a few 2012 DC tundras on their lots to begin with and not what I want which is not asking for much. There is no good reason I can come up with that the dealer should not have an issue to order me from factory and wait 3 months to get if that SR5 DC in my color both interior and exterior with 18″ alloy wheels is nowhere to be found in a 500 mile radius. That is not too much to expect is it? Almost all DC tundras non-trd SR5 in stock on dealers’ lot have ugly style steel wheels and I am willing to pay 810 bucks dealer cost to get the 18″ alloy wheels and not over 1 grand for them to special order the rims and pay them labor to swap tires, etc. 200 bucks out of my pocket or more is worth it to me to special order my vehicle especially since they make what I want down the line, just not available locally within 500 mile radius.

  2. Brian J says:

    I want a 6 speed manual with my Tundra…jealous that the truck in this pic has one!

  3. Jason (Admin) says:

    mk – I’d roll around Dubai in that leathered-out Tundra, doing wicked burn-outs with the A/C blasting all the time, LOL!! ;-)

    But seriously, I hear what you’re saying. Toyota’s lack of ordering flexibility creates a lot of situations that leave consuemrs scratching their heads…and it’s probably always going to be that way. Good or bad, it’s the “Toyota way”.

    Brian – I know, right?

  4. [...] in it so I don't have to paint the damn thing! More insight on how you can order from Toyota: Why You Really Can't Special Order a Toyota | Tundra Headquarters __________________ MIDNIGHT RIDER THE NEW HEARTBEAT OF AMERICA AFTER GAS PEDAL [...]

  5. Anonymous says:

    There is some confusing statements here. Dealers order their Toyota’s from a distributor named TLS ( Toyota logistic services). TLS then orders what they need from plant. Every car we build is ” purchased” as far as the plant / tmm is concerned. That is part of Toyota’s lean production. That way we don’t have 1000’s of built cars sitting in a lot somewhere that eventually have to discount the price to get rid of. It’s the pull system. All cars are pulled out of plant by orders. There are ways of getting excatly what you want on your truck if u can wait and can find a dealership with staff that knows/ and are willing to work for you. After a dealership sells a truck they automaticly re-order one from TLS. At this point they are usually about fourty or sixty days away from actuall build date. They can then go into order system and change anything they want any option Toyota offers. I can’t remember for sure but I think it can be changed up to ten days before actuall planned build date. When I bought my truck the dealer was able to “custom order ” the exact options and colors I wanted and delete the ones I didnt. Won’t get you a full leathered out tundra with manual transmission. At least you won’t have to pay for plastic bed liner when you want to get spray in.

  6. mk says:

    I think also the dealer is only alloted so many orders of vehicle types based somewhat on their monthly sales quotas if they hit or exceed the quotas. Unfortunately where I live only 5-10 tops DC tundras are on dealer lots at 1 time. In 2007 and even in 2010, there were like 2 dozen DC tundras laying around to choose from for all nearby dealers. Toyota sure has cut production and what you call ‘lean’ production sure explains it just right. On top of that, most dealers want 500 bucks dealer trade to go get the tundra from a dealer say 100-250 miles away. No way will I ever pay for that since if they cannot order and get on their lot what I want which is pretty basic and should be easy for them to have (in my opinion), then the way I see it is that is the dealers’ problem and should not be mine.

  7. Jason (Admin) says:

    Anon – We’re saying the same things, basically. Toyota will build trucks that fit their master plan, but they won’t deviate from that plan to build a regular cab Tundra with a leather interior, or a manual transmission and a Limited, etc.

    Your dealer was able to pick and choose options because Toyota was willing to add or take away those options for your region.

    mk – You are correct – dealers are allocated a certain number of vehicles, and orders are pulled from that allocation, so if they have 10 special orders and 8 allocations, 2 orders go unfilled.

  8. [...] Re: 2012 Tundra — TRD Package versus No TRD Package Why You Really Can't Special Order a Toyota | Tundra Headquarters [...]

  9. Joe C says:

    Jason –

    Thanks for the interesting article. I just wanted to say I spent about a year with a car-buying service which advised me of the same thing. I was looking specifically for a Toyota Tundra with a particular color leather interior (“Red Rock”), and it just wasn’t coming off production in the exterior color I ordered, or with the configuration I wanted (4×4, Double-Cab, Limited, Off-Road Package, etc., tow mirrors). It was a long wait, and I finally gave up.

    I went with another car-buying service (USAA), and they put you directly in touch with the dealer at a set price. One dealership stepped right up, ordered the precise truck and the order was accepted the same day. I should have it in a about a month, once it comes off the line and they ship it from San Antonio. The dealer rep with whom I dealt said they do special orders “all the time” (I don’t think she was yanking my chain). She also said – and this may get to the core of your “exception(s) to the rule” noted above – that it expedites matters if all you’re doing is taking a model the MFR intends to build, and swapping out a couple of easy items. For example, my truck order sought Red Rock leather and tow mirrors on an otherwise pretty standard “nautical blue” Limted. Easy enough for them to do, it turns out!

    I would just offer to others similarly situated, that you should try for the vehicle you want with Toyota. Use Yelp or other review services to find a dealership that’s is willing to actually go the extra mile and do the work for you. There are probably _some_ limitations to what you can order, as the writer suggests. But at least as it pertains to the Tundra, it’s not an open and shut case that Toyota won’t accept a special order.

  10. [...] what you want only "request" for allocation with those features. Here's a good article: http://www.tundraheadquarters.com/bl…rder-a-toyota/ '12 Sienna Ltd Reply   Reply With [...]

  11. Anonymous says:

    [...] If you haven't read it, here is my post on why more options are tough for Toyota to offer: Why You Really Can't Special Order a Toyota | Tundra Headquarters Blog -Tim __________________ -Tim Esterdahl Associate Editor @ Tundraheadquarters.com [...]

  12. […] customer order in place. Toyota builds most of its vehicles based on “dealer orders.” This article says Toyota is actually LESS willing to build a “custom” truck than GM or F…, saying that Toyota pretty much builds to their plan and does their best to match dealer orders to […]

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