Ford, GM and Chrysler; Are they still the big three?

In the early 1990s, the light duty truck market experienced something it hadn’t seen before: Asian competition; something like.
While Japanese manufacturers had made a number on the big three in the small truck market as they had in various auto segments, the market for full-size trucks was still red, white, blue, and $$ green. Then came the Toyota T-100. While the initial entry into Japan’s full-size market didn’t have much of an impact on the North American work truck market, it should have been a wake-up call.

Though the T-100 fell short of the work truck mark in many ways: low gross weight, sheet metal like aluminum foil, negligible powertrains, low towing capacity, and the styling that is best described as a Camry with a 8 ‘bed, accomplished one thing. It gave Toyota a platform to experiment, collect feedback, and learn. It wasn’t exactly heavy work. But by the T-100’s third year of production, it claimed the title of Best Full-Size Pickup in JD Powers’ initial quality survey and had begun to erode the idea that only American manufacturers could build full-size pickup trucks. .

Since then, the T-100 has become the Tundra and has racked up almost every quality award and press accolade known to man. It has also grown. Regular cabs have grown to be larger than domestic double cabs, and power and displacement have increased from the initial 3.0 v6 to the current vvt-i V8 with nearly 300 hp. But a more important event occurred when the T-100 became the Tundra. It went from a Japanese truck built in Japan by Japanese workers to an American truck built for the American market by American’s. ¿Why is it so important? In the world of full-size trucks, it is everything. When it comes to high-revving sports cars, compact economy cars, or even lawn mowers, we’re happy to refer you to any European or Asian company that has a better idea. But when it comes to trucks, Americans are picky.

We know what we want and what we don’t want. I am an American truck owner and I can’t describe it, but I understand. We all understand it. So regardless of whether or not it makes financial sense for Japanese auto companies to build trucks here in the US (it does), it makes a lot of sense from a design and marketing standpoint. The best and fastest way to offer what a market wants and needs is to immerse yourself in the culture. That change from the T-100 being built in Tokyo by the Toyotas Hino division to the Tundra being built in Indiana by American’s forever blurred the distinction between foreign and domestic trucks. Foreigner vs. Domestic just doesn’t have the same meaning in the 21st century as it did in the decades after World War II.

The impact of this event has not yet fully developed, but it will do so in the years to come. Full-size trucks were the last undisturbed market the big three had. Now, not only is there foreign competition, it is not even really foreign. When Toyota opens its new truck plant in San Antonio in late 2006, they will employ more than 2,000 workers and have suppliers on site who will employ an additional 2,100 people. All of them Texans. It’s hard
imagine an American truck more American than one built by Texans.

Now, with the introduction of the Canton Mississippi-made Nissan Titan, the writing is on the wall. As of October this year, Nissan has sold nearly 74,000 Titans. Add that to the 100,000+ Tundras that were injected into the market, and we’re talking serious numbers. That’s more than a quarter of a million sales annually that would have been to Ford, GM or Chrysler just 13 years ago. But the numbers are more ominous for the Big 3 than that. The Titan and Tundra only compete in the 1/2 ton market. Toyota and Nissan do not produce a model to compete with Chevy HD, Ford Super Duty or Heavy Dodge Rams and Power Wagons; STILL.

Can’t imagine Nissan and Toyota building serious work trucks? Remember, Toyota already owns Hino and Nissan and you are one in the same. Hino and UD own a significant share of the class 3 to 6 medium-duty truck market in the states. Those are the segments just above the Super Duty, Power Wagons, and HD.

They may not be called Nissan and Toyota, but that’s not important. The bottom line is that they have the dealer network, the distribution chain, the corporate infrastructure, and over 20 years of selling quality trucks to commercial buyers in the US All that remains is to close the loop in the noose around the neck. collective of the big three.

In working with truck buyers, three factors are critical. Initial cost, cost of operation and reliability. Nissan and Toyota are masters at entering market segments and in a short time have higher quality products, better efficiency and, in many cases, lower prices than their competitors. Force the big three to catch up on their own game. Cadillac and Lincoln have yet to catch up with Lexus. If GM, Ford, and Chrysler don’t hurry, Nissan and Toyota will start building 3/4 and one of their trucks, and the game will be over before they even knew it had started.
So how prepared are the Big Three for some serious foreign competition?

This year, if Toyota leaned in, they could have offered a bedless Tundra with a dual-wheel rear axle underneath, fit one of the Hinos diesel engines, and sell more cab and chassis than Dodge. How? Dodge hasn’t offered a true cab and chassis since the Ram redesign in 2003, literally giving Ford and GM the market for more than three years. That kind of slow adaptation will spell disaster for companies like Toyota and Nissan. Not to mention Honda and Mitsubishi, who can also become players.
Based on recently introduced show vehicles like the Toyota FTX (which has a built-in folding work box and ramps that slide out of the box), Nissan and Toyota are going to grow bigger and bigger. As Ford wastes time putting Super Duty truck boxes on International chassis, Toyota and Nissan are refining their product and winning the hearts and minds of American truck buyers.

Will history repeat itself? It already is. Oh, and by the way, the Chinese are coming.

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