Since Toyota Motor Corp announced its plans last week to build Tacoma pickups and possibly SUVs at the production plant currently under construction in Guanajuato, Mexico, speculation on the best way for the Japanese automaker to approach such shifts in production has led to different theories among industry analysts.
"We're going to concentrate only on pickups at the beginning and are studying the potential for SUVs in the future," said a cautious Luis Lozano, Toyota de Mexico spokesman, to Mexican media.
But according to Sam Fiorani of AutoForecast Solutions, production of the SUV is more feasible than it appears. That’s because the company already builds Tacoma in Tijuana, Baja California and San Antonio, Texas.
And while there’s a relatively low inventory on those pickups, a whole new assembly plant is not required to catch up with industry standards on stock volume, hence Toyota would have to add another product at the Guanajuato facility in order to reach maximum capacity utilization.
“AutoForecast Solutions believes Toyota can relocate the popular and imported 4Runner production, which shares the Tacoma’s body-on-frame platform, to Guanajuato,” said Fiorani in a piece published by automotive specialized news outlet WardsAuto this week.
Since its introduction in 1984, all 4Runners have been built at Toyota's Tahara plant at Aichi, Japan, and supplied from there to every market worldwide.
Due to consistent trend in the U.S. consumers to shift from sedans to pickups and SUVs, the 4Runner has seen a steady increase in sales during 2017, to 9,874 units in July and 73,395 vehicles in the first seven months of the year, representing increases of 2.9% and 14.6% respectively.
Meanwhile, inventory issues in the Tacoma have led to a minimal growth in sales despite the increasing demand of midsize pickups. Toyota sold 111,968 units from January through July, while is a strong figure it’s just 0.3% higher than those delivered in the same seven-month period of 2016.
A competitor clearly favored by Tacoma’s issues is the Honda Ridgeline, which has seen its sales multiply from 5,992 units in the first seven months of 2016, to 21,182 pickups over the same period this year, a skyrocketing 253.5% jump.