Toyota Tundras Battle in Detroit, Heightened

By: Glady Reign

The Toyota Motor Corporation's Tundra pickup serves as a great threat to Detroit automakers. The long-time Detroit steel dominated segment is now being challenged by a Japanese automaker. And this certain fact is that one which makes Detroit automakers frantic. Earlier, the General Motors Corp., the Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group slammed the Toyota Tundra pickup via company emails and ads.

A General Motors Corp. sales manager recently sent an e-mail to dealers picking apart some of the more snooty claims in a Toyota TV commercial promoting its new Texas-built Tundra pickup. In addition, employees at the Ford Motor Co., including Mark Fields, the president of the Americas division, are spreading the word that Ford trucks were spotted helping out in the construction of the San Antonio Toyota plant.

In Atlanta, a major Chevrolet dealer is airing a radio ad that says: "Toyota contributes more to our staggering national trade deficit than any manufacturer." The Toyota Tundra is being attacked left and right and more powerful attacks are expected to arrive. "As they continue to do well in the marketplace and there's been more and more talk about them eclipsing us to become No. 1, it puts them into a different limelight," GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan said. "It puts them into a more adversarial position."

Toyota is gradually invading the global auto scene and in Detroit, the company is etching a reputable name. However, when it comes to the pickup truck segment Detroit automakers have retained its superiority with the Ford F-Series on the lead, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado. The Dodge Ram is also one of the favorite trucks in Detroit.

Toyota invested heavily in its redesigned Tundra pickup. This is aimed at increasing its market share in the lucrative segment. Now, Detroit's carmakers are fighting to protect their turf. "They've made it a war," said Jim Ziegler, a Duluth, Georgia based automotive retail consultant and he speaks with regards to the Tundra. "And GM cannot afford to let them win this war."

The e-mail sent to GM dealers said that the Japanese automaker makes misleading claims in the Toyota Tundra ad, which features the truck hauling a mammoth trailer and then speeding to the edge of a cliff then halting. "Bottom line: Our truck is better! Spread the word," the e-mail said. GM's communication officials have heard the radio ad, but the company was not involved in its creation, Rhadigan said.

People at Ford are circulating a Louisville Courier-Journal article, not about but Ford truck spottings in behind-the-scenes footage of the Tundra ad. Ford's Fields had a video posted to the company's website highlighting the blue oval sightings, the article said.

Toyota is taking the heat calmly. Spokesman Chad Harp pointed out that the company's boasts in the commercial, including the Tundra pulling a 10,000-pound trailer, are backed by scientific testing. The GM email said the trailer was only 5,000 pounds. "We know we are in territory that is not our home turf," Harp said. "You aren't going to see us stepping to a level where we're trying to defend ourselves."

Steve Cook, a GM dealer in Vasser, said that all the competitive rhetoric is taking the focus off his vehicles. "It seems we're always talking about Toyota," he said. "We've got good products. We need be a little bit more like Toyota and just do it."

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