Toyota Tundra Lures Texan Truckers

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Texas is facing a great pickup battle having Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota as contenders. As the automakers set free their most powerful pickups, the Truck Country is expected to release more steam to signal heated rivalry.

Toyota Motor Corp., meanwhile, works to lure true truckers in Texas to win over more customers. This is why it has unleashed its redesigned Tundra to steal a portion of Ford F-150's sales. But the best-selling pickup is not the only potent rival. There is the new Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram. Moreover, the Japanese automaker is expected to exert extra effort in order for its goal to materialize.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, Ford F-Series dived nearly 3.6 percentage points across the nation to hold 30.7 percent of the market. In Texas, the models lost 5.5 points to fall to 31.9 percent, reported the Michigan-based R.L. Polk & Co. In comparison, the Tundra, sources divulged recorded nearly 3.5 points nationwide and 3.7 in Texas in its first year since a major redesign.

"Those numbers might not seem huge, but when you consider truck buyers are second only to luxury buyers in terms of loyalty, Ford's drop and Toyota's climb are significant," said Lonnie Miller, the director of industry analysis at Polk. "There's no doubt been a very aggressive push by Toyota."

To improve sales, the Japanese automaker entertained some drastic modifications. The automaker used improved such as the V8 engine to enhance power. Additionally, the automaker improved the pickup's towing capacity to compete better in the segment.

What's more, the automaker launched a number of marketing campaigns to promote the modifications made to the Tundra. And the efforts showed positive results. The numbers show the effort had some meat to it, though no-interest and cash-back incentives had more to do with the success, said Tom Libby, an analyst with J.D. Power.

"We certainly had a lot more full-size pickups traded in for Tundras in '07," said Tom Shopoff, the director of truck support for Gulf States Toyota, a network of dealerships that includes statewide Tundra best-seller Fred Haas Toyota World in Spring. "We have a tremendous product."

But Shopoff predicted the Tundra would see a bubble burst. "You've seen the big bubble," he noted.

Increased competition from Toyota comes at a time when auto sales in general, and pickup sales in particular, are down, according to Houston Chronicle. Auto sales in 2007 fell 2.4 percent, and large pickups were down 2.7 percent, Libby said in an interview.

"That means more competition, which in turn means more incentives and lower prices," Libby concluded. "The winner in all this is the consumer."

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