Toyota looking hard at compact pickup market



Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz have sold 50,000 units through May this year, according to figures compiled by Automotive News. Hyundai claims nearly 15,000 of those sales. Despite the South Korean carmaker’s sales being down 16% through the end of May compared to same period in 2021, the Santa Cruz set a new sales record in May, and we know how popular the Maverick is. It’s possible that every automaker with a platform that could be converted into a compact truck is looking at the U.S. compact truck market now. Thanks to Motor Trend, we know Toyota is one of those automakers. During Toyota’s HQ Conference at its Texas base, three execs admitted to keeping a keen eye on the segment and brainstorming potential ways to enter.

Bob Carter, EVP for Toyota Motor North America, told MT, “Today, we have the market really well covered with Tacoma, but that [a compact pickup] could be a possibility and something we continue to look at.” Cooper Ericksen, the group VP of product planning and strategy, made it clear the key is figuring out the customer. Toyota has a body-on-frame platform it could use for a pickup that leans toward hardy use, and unibody platforms for a city-focused getaround with a bed — which one makes more sense? “[The] more that Ford sells, frankly, the more that Hyundai sells,” he said, “the more we’ll be able to get good research on who these customers are, why they want this vehicle, and we’ll see if that’s the space that we want to enter into.”

Underlining the point, Jack Hollis, the carmaker’s SVP of automotive operations here told AN that there’s no question of having space in the lineup for a truck below the Tacoma. The dimensions of the current Tacoma add emphasis, AN pointing out that the modern mid-sizer is nine inches taller and a minimum of three feet longer than a 2000 Tacoma. Hollis asked of that space, “The question is, how to fill it?”

And Volkswagen should take note, because its recent EV pickup announcement is making waves at more than its U.S. dealer body, Ericksen saying, “it will be interesting to see Scout.”

If you live in a certain part of the country, it’s as if Toyota’s compact history never died. Southern California is swimming in fourth-gen trucks, often with the painted badging on their tailgates erased to leave just “YO.” Examples of the two succeeding generations built through the 1990s — before the Tacoma graduated to a mid-sizer in 2005 — still want good money on the used market even with more than 200,000 miles. 

While Toyota is talking in the conditional tenses that all automakers use before announcing product, it sounds like the company has an idea of what it wants to do. Carter told Motor Trend, “Chances are we may have HQ Confidential 3 [in June] next year, so we’ll have other things to talk about.” The new Toyota Tacoma is expected next year, the new 4Runner the year after that. In 2025, it’s possible Toyota goes back to playing small ball. 

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