Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota’s U.S. division, was a little more enthusiastic about the upcoming 2016 Toyota Tacoma than most executives giving pitches at the Detroit auto show on Monday.
“This truck is a bad ass,” he told the throng of reporters gathered around to see the third generation of America’s most popular midsized pickup truck. Fay used the word “aggressive” more than once to describe the Tacoma’s commanding stance.
The new Tacoma couldn’t have come at a more important time for Toyota. General Motors recently returned to the midsized truck market after a two year hiatus with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado – which was a finalist for 2015 North American Truck of the Year – and its fancier cousin the 2015 GMC Canyon. GM will challenge Tacoma’s 60 percent U.S. market share in smaller pickup trucks.
“The Tacoma redesign comes at the perfect time for Toyota, as fresh, new product is needed to defend its mid-size turf,” said Akshay Anand, automotive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Toyota is well aware that the truck will need to pack some serious bang for the buck, as the domestic midsize trucks have been garnering accolades abound since their launch.
The new, “aggressive” Tacoma comes with a power outlet in the bed, a GoPro camera mount on the rear-view mirror (to capture the excitement of bouncing around off road) and, for the first time, a lock box for additional protection of tools in a truck popular with the kinds of people that have them.
Designed from the company’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, technical center, the new Tacoma – as with its predecessors – is designed for the American. Unlike its more rustic global cousin, the Hilux, the Tacoma emphasizes comfort and smooth driving from a refined suspension system that adapts to both on- and off-road handling from a 3.5 liter V6 engine. Fuel economy, power specifications and price aren’t out yet.
The truck will come in four grades from the entry level SR – a basic tool carrier – to the TRD sport and off-road variant that makes up 40 percent of Tacoma sales in the U.S.
Tacoma U.S. sales fell 3 percent to 155,041 units last year. The third generation Tacoma that goes on sale sometime next year will help reverse this trend. Whether it will be enough to defend Toyota’s midsized pickup truck U.S. turf won’t be known until the last quarter of this year when sales figures begin to reflect deliveries of 2016 Tacoma. Meanwhile now might be a good time to buy a 2015 model year version.
Watch Fay present the 2016 Tacoma pickup truck: