It was anything but business as usual at this year's National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show in Atlanta, GA. Several manufacturers introduced products that went beyond complimenting their existing product lines to actually target new market segments.
The Toyota Tundra was introduced to the North American market in 1999. "Even though we have sold nearly 700,000 units since then, the current Tundra is not considered big enough for a lot of customers who depend on pickups for their livelihood," says Al Smith, corporate fleet manager, Toyota Motor Sales.
"We sold an all-time high of 125,000 units last year, which was a 13% increase over 2004," says Smith. But this year, the company plans to break through into the work truck segment with a bigger and more capable 2007 model year Tundra.
How serious is Toyota about the work truck market? "We plan to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 units its first year on the market," says Smith.
The new full-size Tundra, which will be built exclusively in Princeton, IN, and San Antonio, TX, has been designed with the commercial customer in mind. "When this new Tundra hits the market next year, it will carry a towing capacity in excess of 10,000 lbs.," says Brian Smith, manager of truck operations. "In order to tow over 10,000 lbs., every major component had to be designed for maximum strength, durability and reliability over the long haul."
It starts with the powertrain. Three engine choices will be available: an all-new 5.7-liter iForce V8 built in Alabama, an updated 4.7-liter V8 and a fuel-efficient 4-liter V6. The new 5.7-liter V8 will transmit power to the ground through a six-speed automatic transmission.
Brakes have also been upgraded. Heavy-duty front brakes feature four-piston calipers and rotors that are nearly 1 1/2 in. larger than the previous Tundra. "Standard rear disc brakes are nearly as big as the front," says Smith.
The frame has been strengthened and widened, with 30% higher tensile strength steel. To ensure trouble-free towing, the truck features a rear differential with a 10 1/2-in. ring gear, plus extra-duty cooling and an electrical system to accommodate Class IV towing.
The hitch is not an afterthought with the new Tundra. "We built the trailer hitch right into the frame of the truck for better stability when handling heavy loads," says Smith.
The lockable all-steel tailgate has been designed to open and close using just two fingers. "We have added a damper on that hinge to cushion the tailgate when opening, as well as reduce bouncing when you are driving with it in the open position," Smith explains.
The Tundra will be available in over 30 different models, combining three different engines, three cab configurations, two- or four-wheel drive and three trim levels. "You will start seeing this new truck on the streets early next year," says Smith.
Dodge rolls out chassis cab
Dodge charges into the Class 3 chassis cab market, introducing the 2007 Ram 3500 Chassis Cab. It will be available in two-wheel or four-wheel drive, single-rear wheel or dual-rear wheel and regular cab or Quad cab in Cab-to-Axle (CA) lengths of 60 or 84 in.
Customers will have a choice of a Cummins 6.7-liter diesel engine that pumps out 305 hp and 610 lb.-ft. of torque, or a 5.7-liter HEMI gasoline engine that produces 330 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission with PTO capability is standard. The Cummins diesel is also available with a six-speed automatic transmission with PTO capability, and the HEMI is available with a five-speed automatic transmission.
This truck was designed as a true chassis cab. It offers a continuous C-channel frame with 34-in. frame rail spacing. The frame is constructed of 50-ksi steel. "It is the first in its class to get all of the chassis components below the top surface of the frame for virtually any upfit application," says Scott Kunselman, chief engineer. This provides completely clean, flat frame-top surfaces. U-bolt access is located every 18 in. along the length of the frame.