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How many more Tacomas could Toyota sell if it offered a diesel in the U.S.?

The answer is zero. Here’s why.

No single topic entices Tacoma fans into a lively debate more than the merits of a diesel Tacoma for the U.S. market. Choose any forum you like and search for “diesel” and you will see that the positions are polar opposites, and firmly entrenched. We will offer a few arguments both for and against a diesel Tacoma here, but before we do, let’s answer a simple question. How many more Tacomas would Toyota sell if it offered a Tacoma diesel in the U.S.? We contend the answer is zero. Furthermore, we will also state that Chevy’s Colorado Duramax 2.8L diesel and Canyon twin will not elevate sales by even a single unit.

Why Diesels Won’t Increase Sales

The simple fact is the production facilities that Toyota and General Motors use to produce these vehicles are at full capacity. Furthermore, every truck made is sold in the month it is put onto dealer lots. Neither has even hinted it may build more capacity. For Toyota, the number is about 17,000 Tacomas per month, and for GM the number is roughly 10,000 total Canyons and Colorados. Toyota’s old, 2015 design is selling out every month. If anyone suspects the newer 2016 won’t, feel free to make your case. We checked with GM to be sure we had that facts right about the production being at max. When we did, we also asked what GM expects the “take-rate” to be for the Duramax. Five percent is the expectation. So roughly 500 trucks per month (after an initial surge).

The Case For and Against a Tacoma Diesel
Forget the details. Here’s why Toyota should make a diesel. The fans want one. Shouldn’t that be enough? Second, it would help (a tiny bit) with the corporate average fuel economy Toyota is always trying to improve. That is pretty much it for the “Yes” argument.

Why not do a diesel? Because as Toyota’s chief engineer for Tacoma explained, it is not cost effective. It would cost the company more money to adapt an existing diesel design to meet U.S. regulations than the profit on the diesel trucks sold would generate. Toyota does not sell a single diesel in the U.S. The reasons go beyond just economics. Toyota believes that for environmental benefits and governmental relations, hybrids do much more. Affordable hybrids and even normal gasoline engines, in the compact segment spank diesels when it comes to CO2 production and petroleum usage. They also win the cost per mile case. Even at Lexus the hybrids stack up well against the BMW diesels in terms of green credibility and performance. Many diesel advocates cite towing ability as an important benefit of diesel engines in trucks. That is true, but in the Colorado the Duramax only improves towing capacity by 10%.

As a Toyota owner and fan, I would love to see a diesel Tacoma sold in the U.S., just like I love seeing the low-volume Lexus RC F for sale. However, adding a diesel engine won’t sell more trucks at Toyota, nor will it at GM.

Related Stories: No 2016 diesel Tacoma coming - Toyota explains why
A 31 MPG 2016 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid 4WD pickup is possible
Toyota now one step closer to 2016 Tacoma 2.0-Turbo
2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 Towing vs. Chevy Colorado Diesel Duramax


Grey Pacific (not verified)    August 22, 2015 - 2:38AM

I own a 2002 Tacoma twin cab. I have been holding off buying a new one until a more fuel efficient unit will come out. I would take a hybrid or a diesel.

Justin (not verified)    August 22, 2015 - 2:06PM

Interesting article. I think diesel growth here in the US is still in its nascent stage. I have a 2007 GMC Half Ton and would seriously entertain the thought of a GMC Canyon if it truly gets 32-35 mpg on the highway if that holds to be true.

Diesels are still a small percentage of US auto sales, but that will increase, for sure.

GM needs to bring back the 4.5L Duramax for the half ton they promised in 2008!

Just Jack (not verified)    September 1, 2015 - 4:46PM

I'm sitting here in London checking my email from my stateside account. I just pulled in with my Hundai rental. It's a diesel 6 speed. The (unbelievable) screen on my dash board says we're getting 55.6 MPG !!
That's FIFTY-FIVE POINT SIX MPG. I'm on line looking for a diesel powered Camry. They have them here. Just switch the steering wheel to the other side. Diesels emit CO2 - not CO1. The trees love them. The trees absorb CO2 in order to survive. Comeon USA get with it.

John Goreham    September 1, 2015 - 5:15PM

In reply to by Just Jack (not verified)

Just Jack, a couple things to consider. Convert your mileage in the London Hyundai to US miles per gallon and tell me what you get. I get about 46 MPG (US) after I do the math. Your gallons are bigger so you go farther on one. 46 MPG is good highway mileage and diesels excel on the highway. However, the combined MPG of diesel passenger cars does not surpass the best gasoline cars in their class. Hybrids simply blow diesels out of the water in Combined MPG and use a fuel that requires less petroleum per gallon to produce and have lower CO2 emissions. I wish your thoughts on CO2 production could be the view of the California Air Resources Board. It sure would save us Yanks some big bucks.

Lucas (not verified)    September 7, 2015 - 3:55PM

This is a very interesting story and something I never considered. I think this interpretation is absolutely correct: that, unless they expand capacity, adding a diesel would not add a single additional unit of sales. I do wonder though whether the premium being charged by GM for their diesel is going to translate into additional profit as their dealership network already is set up for diesel service. I for one would most likely not be buying one of the GM twins if not for the fact that a diesel was coming. Here in Canada diesel is cheaper per litre than gasoline, is available at most major stations, and is obviously a great fuel for a truck.

4RunnerLover (not verified)    December 2, 2015 - 1:56PM

This is not just an economical issue; Toyota should consider:

Cleaner emissions/ CO2
Buyers that will switch brands/ market shift
The user experience; I drove a Hilux Diesel recently in S Africa; it is a superior performance package and driver experience.
Informed buyers will pay more.

Larry (not verified)    December 17, 2015 - 1:11AM

In reply to by 4RunnerLover (not verified)

I absolutely agree. As far as the comment about how adding a diesel engine option will not add to sales, I think that is just complete Bravo Sierra. Look at what it has done for RAM sales. It is time for the automotive companies to give the U.S. buyers what WE want.

Carl (not verified)    February 11, 2016 - 10:50PM

I have a 2015 Tacoma. My neighbor have a full size Ecodiesel getting 10+ mpg more than my midsize truck. My lease is up in 2 years I will consider Ecodiesel and Colorado diesel. Toyota should consider bring in diesel Tacoma because of market share. More Tacoma owners will consider alternatives when they are really for new purchase. Also Tacoma enjoy a good following in the off-road market, travel range on a tank of fuel is important. Diesel will become a big part on conversation. If Toyota enjoy the sales lead thay have over other other manufacturer they need to be proactive instead of waiting for their customers to jump ship.

John (not verified)    March 25, 2016 - 10:45PM

Thank you for the article, but you really didnt answer your own question. Saying that their would be no increase in sales due to lack of production capacity, doesnt really answer the question. They could just buy Detroit and have lots of capacity once they redesigned the plants.

I have a Tacoma, but I also have an F350 Diesel. I would love to have both a diesel Tacoma and Diesel Tundra and. Or a diesel sequoia... First I could use the same fuel in these and my John Deere tractor, but more importantly I would have the low end torque to haul 10,000 pounds of cattle with the Tundra. In any case, Toyota has LOST FACE by not serving its customers. Mercedes, Audi, VW, BMW all seem to make a clean diesel, apparently Toyota just cant get it done! What a shame a company like Toyota just cant do it!

MW (not verified)    April 1, 2016 - 4:31PM

I'm going to disagree with your comment that it won't sell more trucks. I'm shopping for a new truck to replace the Tacoma I've owned for 17 years, which has been an excellent truck. The SOLE reason I am seriously considering a Chevy (even test drove one) is the diesel, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. If Chevy/GMC didn't have the diesel, I would buy another Tacoma without any hesitation. I think the diesel will pull customers from other brands that don't offer diesels.

TimH (not verified)    May 20, 2016 - 9:01PM

they would sell one to me. Most people who buy pickups never haul anything or at the very least once in a great while but want one just incase there is a need to do so. The same buyers want to get the best mileage they can. I think the new Dodge 1/2 ton with the Italian diesel that gets around 30 MPH will do very well as it fills the need of a light duty truck and gets the mileage of a small car. Not everyone needs a 1 ton dually diesel that costs $80K. Toyota at least needs to put a diesel in their Tundra line to compete with the other manufacturers. I for one will not buy anymore Government Motors (GM) vehicles so their lineup does nothing for me. I had a Tacoma in the past and it was a great truck but got horrible mileage.

mike shankin (not verified)    March 29, 2017 - 3:15AM

there are many diesel enthusiasts out there. although more expensive on purchase the diesel is more durable, efficient, has greater towing capacity, and much higher resale value. not interested in a gas tacoma. offer a diesel and you've got my attention.