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Toyota Not Getting Much Sales Pickup For Tundra Yet

From brandweek| April 17,2007

Toyota Not Getting Much Sales Pickup For Tundra Yet

Consumers are giving Toyota's Tundra pickup truck a cool reception.

Sales for the Tundra, which launched in February, lagged last year's by 1% in the first quarter and continue to be dwarfed by sales of Toyota's smaller truck, the Tacoma, per Autodata, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

While that percentage may sound minute, Toyota has high hopes for the retooled truck. Toyota projected the new Tundra would outpace the previous model, which sold 124,508 units last year, by 60% in 2007 with target sales of 200,000.

Why the slow sales? Brian Smith, corporate truck operations manager at Toyota, said the 5.7-liter engine that was featured in initial TV spots, including one that ran during the Super Bowl, was not available at dealerships until the middle of March because of production issues. Toyota spent $51 million on measured media for Tundra ads in February, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Alex Rosten, an analyst at Edmunds', said Tundra had a "great" launch, but "it was for a vehicle that was not yet on the lots. People saw the 5.7-liter in those spots, towing 10,000 lbs. up and down a hill, and wanted to see that truck at the dealer. But it wasn't available yet. That's a problem."

Nevertheless, the Tundra's slow sales have prompted the normally incentive averse Toyota to offer up to $2,000 in cash off the price in addition to subsidized financing on the Tundra through April 30. The overall cost of incentives on the Tundra is lower than for some others, such as the Dodge Ram or the Ford F-150.

The full-size truck segment is one of the most competitive in the industry and Toyota expected to offer incentives, but "it is early for this and we usually don't see this level of incentives this early in the game," said Rosten. He added that the Tundra's sticker price—$22,290 versus $18,220 for the Ford F-Series—is also an issue for many consumers.

"The Tundra . . . is not meeting their sales target," said Rosten. "They anticipated that their work truck sales would be 15% of overall Toyota sales and now they have scaled that back to 5% because the truck is too expensive. You can get the [Ford] F-series for less."

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