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Old 02-14-2007, 02:00 PM
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Arrow Toyota hopes Tundra hauls in buyers


Toyota hopes Tundra hauls in buyers

The full-size pickup segment is one of the largest in the auto industry and probably the most profitable.

Success in full-size pickups ?? the most Middle American segment in the industry ?? could also enhance Toyota's carefully cultivated image as an "American" company, analysts say. The Japanese automaker likes to emphasize that it builds cars here and employs American workers.

Tundras from the San Antonio plant began arriving at area Toyota dealerships about a week ago, with the official kickoff this weekend. Dealers say they have at least five Tundras each on their lots.

Texas, the largest pickup truck market in the world, will be ground zero as Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge wage ferocious sales battles to steal some of the Tundra's thunder. Moreover, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. have their own new arrivals: Ford's 2008 Super Duty pickup and Chevy's '07 Silverado. The Silverado is Motor Trend 's Truck of the Year.

Nonetheless, Toyota dealers say they are already attracting so-called domestic loyalists to their showrooms.

At Mr. Lobb's dealership in McKinney, for example, the four competitors' trucks that weren't stripped are in the lot, where consumers can compare their ability to tow a 16-foot trailer that weighs about 2,000 pounds with the Tundra's. The Dodge Ram on the lot is equipped with a Hemi V-8, one of the segment's strongest engines.

"It is a lot of money to spend on this," said Mr. Lobb, who will ultimately reassemble the trucks in his showroom and sell all of them as used vehicles. "But if Toyota is making the kind of investment in this that they are, I need to step up to the pump."

Steve Grogean, vice president and general manager of Toyota of Richardson, said he noticed last Saturday that Tundra shoppers were asking specific questions about the truck's ability to pull or haul loads.

"I don't think our last-generation truck was considered that credible," Mr. Grogean said. "This truck is. And if you've got a Camry and a domestic pickup in your garage ?? which a lot of families do ?? you're going to be inclined to at least give this truck a look."

Over the next couple of years, he said, the Tundra could become his dealership's second-best-selling Toyota, behind the Camry.

At Sport City Toyota in Dallas, managing partner Sonny Morgan is bringing in a large boat and a big RV camper trailer to test trucks' pulling power. He will also have all of Tundra's competitors available to drive with the trailers behind them.

"That domestic market is what we're aiming for," Mr. Morgan said. "The big market for us is the Big Three. They are brand loyal, but if I can show them my truck is as big, has more features, more power and more quality, I think a lot of them will listen."

Rene Isip at Toyota of Lewisville is also pursuing business customers for the Tundra ?? a group Toyota wants to court. And as the supply of Tundras increases, he expects to sell 60 trucks a month, most of them to private customers.

"Five years from now, we'll be doing 100 trucks a month," said Mr. Isip, majority owner of the dealership. "We've sold 11, and I'm getting more of the true Ford and Chevy truck buyers. I thought that would be tough. I'm impressed."

Source: [url=http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/021407dnbustundra.1d1eb19.html]WFAA[/url]
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