Is Toyota Rethinking a Diesel Tacoma Pickup for U.S. Market?
Two years ago Toyota’s chief engineer for the Tacoma, Mike Sweers, explained to the press why there was no Tacoma diesel pickup truck coming to market. Sweers’ opinion and statement of fact centered around the return on investment. However, the profitability of a given drivetrain is only part of the consideration automakers give to adding a new trim or powertrain.
Take Chevrolet and GMC for instance. The Colorado and Canyon are selling briskly, and GM has done all it can to boost production to keep up with the customer demand. GM could easily have sold out every truck it could make in record time over the past year without its 2.8-liter turbo-diesel Duramax engine offering. GM told Torque News shortly after the engine was introduced that between five and ten percent of the trucks it planned to build would be equipped with the Duramax, and indeed, backed that up with a breakdown for us that showed it was the case.
The thousand or so Duramax engines GM imports from Thailand and installs in its midsize pickups each month are not bringing much profit to GM even with their nearly $4,000 cost premium over the 3.6-Liter gasoline V6. However, visit any GM forum, and the fans are crazy about the diesel engines. They love them. No topic gets higher rates of commentary at GM-Trucks.com than does the subject of diesel-equipped truck models.
Toyota Tacoma Diesel - Money Case
Toyota’s return on investment case for bringing a new engine offering to a product line that it already cannot meet demand for is cut and dried. Toyota won’t make any money on a Tacoma diesel. Or more accurately, no more money than the company already makes on the Tacomas it produces 24 hours per day at full factory capacity. However, is Toyota missing out on valuable fan loyalty and the opportunity to fill a need many say they have for this type of engine? (More On Page 2)
Is that need even valid? We broke down the costs per mile for fuel in great detail and the case for diesel as a money-saving engine compared to the gasoline V6 is pretty thin. Likewise, we compared the towing capacity of the Tacoma vs. the diesel Canyon and Colorado. Yes, the diesel engine helps enable the GM trucks to have a higher towing capacity than the Tacoma, but is it something Toyota owners and buyers want? Surveys of actual buyers say no. Another consideration is that the Tacoma can already tow a race car on a trailer, a huge boat, four ATVs on a trailer, a snowmobile trailer, or pretty much any landscape trailer short of one with a D4 dozer on the back. Torque News even went to far as to hook up a horse trailer and report on how the Tacoma handles a towing task at its 6,400 pound limit. So should Toyota bother with a diesel Tacoma?
We are fortunate to have a great team of contacts at Toyota. Yesterday, our contact put us in touch with Mike Sweers via an e-mail chain and we asked simply, was Toyota reconsidering bringing a Tacoma diesel to market in the U.S. The answer was, “We are always looking to improve our powertrain offerings at Toyota. Unfortunately, we do not talk about future developments and/or offerings.”
Given Mr. Sweers prior detailed comments about future powertrain offerings for the Tacoma, and his detailed explanation why the company would not offer diesel, we can draw two conclusions from this new statement. First, Mike Sweers is human and may be tired of answering the same question year after year. Or Second, Mike Sweers is coming around on a diesel Tacoma.