Toyota Tundra Sales Outpacing Every Pickup Truck from Detroit
- While Tundra sales are growing (15% for the first eight months), its Detroit rivals are down for the same period—18% for Ram 1500, 15% for GMC Sierra, 11% for Chevrolet Silverado, and 10% for Ford F-Series.
- Toyota is positioning the redesigned truck for all purposes, but especially recreation—off-roading and towing of campers, boats, and motorcycle trailers.
- The Tundra’s new hybrid powertrain was more than competent while creeping on undulating dusty trails, but a day of off-roading was not the best way to judge its efficiency.
Over and over, Toyota has demonstrated its commitment to long-term strategies, maintaining that persistent hard work is better than wishing for overnight success. Still, patience must be wearing thin in Toyota City as the third-generation Tundra full-size pickup truck finishes its first eight months in the US market, still lagging far behind Detroit-bred competitors.
The new Tundra launched in November at Toyota’s plant in San Antonio, Texas, and US sales have topped 64,702 units from January to August. That represents 15% growth over the same period a year ago, when the plant was winding down production of the previous-generation Tundra.
But here’s an interesting twist: While Tundra sales are growing (perhaps as expected for an all-new model), its Detroit rivals are down for the first eight months of US sales—18% for Ram 1500, 15% for GMC Sierra, 11% for Chevrolet Silverado, and 10% for Ford F-Series, according to Wards Intelligence data.
Slicing the sales numbers more finely, from June to August, only the Ford F-150 (including Lightning EV) and Toyota Tundra have gained share among full-size pickups, while Chevy, GMC, and Ram are down. Perhaps the Tundra’s rising sales are pegged to the spring rollout of the 437-hp i-Force Max hybrid variant, which the automaker predicted would make up about 25% of all Tundra sales. In July, the hybrid comprised 19% of Tundra sales, the automaker reports.
These numbers might provide a little encouragement to Toyota management, but a wide gap remains between Tundra sales and those of its rivals: After eight months, the F-Series, for instance, continues outselling the Tundra by about 6 to 1, driving home the point that the Tundra has a long way to go before becoming truly competitive. Another factor in truck sales is fuel prices, which have retreated from a $5-a-gallon recent high, but nonetheless have encouraged more shopping of smaller midsize pickups, as Cox Automotive notes.
As Toyota pushes forward with its new Tundra, the automaker is positioning the truck for all purposes, but especially recreation—off-roading and towing of campers, boats, and motorcycle trailers. Toyota recently hosted journalists at an ORV track converted from an old rock quarry north of Detroit, where the Tundra hybrid (in TRD Pro trim) ably climbed and descended steep grades with confidence.
As for the Tundra’s new hybrid powertrain, it was more than competent (and smooth) while creeping on undulating trails, but a day of off-roading was not the best way to judge its efficiency.
At low speeds or creeping in traffic—up to 18 mph in Sport mode—the electric motor/generator packaged between the engine and 10-speed automatic transmission does the bulk of the work. But in Tow mode or when using 4WD, the 3.5-liter V6 is always running. In Eco and Normal modes, the engine can turn off at all speeds below 75 mph, depending on the driver’s throttle inputs.
By itself, the electric motor can crank out 48 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, with excess energy stored for later use in a 1.87-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The hybrid hardware adds about 400 pounds to the Tundra’s curb weight.
The suspension represents another big upgrade for the new Tundra, as the leaf springs are replaced by a new multi-link rear setup, designed to improve ride comfort, handling, and towing capability, which is up 17.6% to 12,000 pounds. A rear air suspension is offered now on Tundra for the first time with automatic and manual leveling functions.
Serious rock crawlers will want the TRD off-road package, which comes standard with an electronic locking rear differential for added traction, along with multi-terrain select modes to minimize wheel spin. Toyota says about 35% of Tundra customers do aggressive off-roading, while about 40% use their trucks for towing.
Like its full-size competitors, the Tundra now offers the driver more rearward camera views on the available 14-inch central display screen to help with towing, as well as a hitch view to assist with trailer connecting.
For the 2023 model year, Tundra prices have risen about $1000, starting now at $42,470 for a rear-wheel-drive SR5 Double Cab, 6.5-foot bed, and standard 389-hp twin-turbo V6, and climbing to $66,135 for a Tundra 1794 Edition with four-wheel drive, a 6.5-foot bed, and the i-Force Max hybrid powertrain. On top of the higher sticker prices, Toyota has also cranked up the Tundra’s handling and delivery fees by $100, to $1795.
Also new for the ‘23 Tundra SR5 models is an SX trim package with dark gray metallic 18-inch rims and substituting black for body-color trim and removing Tundra badges from the doors, for a minimalist look. Inside, black accents replace smoked-silver trim.
If you’re in the market for a full-size pickup, has the new Toyota Tundra caught your eye? Please comment below.