Even though other automakers see a market there.
The current 2020 Toyota Tacoma has been on the market since 2015 and while mid-size rivals have the advantage in age, they do not come close in terms of sales. Toyota sold 248,801 Tacomas in 2019, more than double the second-place mid-size truck, the Chevrolet Colorado (122,304). In fact, the Taco is so popular in the US, only the full-size Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500 outsell it. So what is the key to the Tacoma's success? We spoke with Toyota Chief Truck Engineer, Sheldon Brown, to find out.
"It's the reputation," Brown explained of the Tacoma's sales dominance. "The quality and reliability, that's what has established this truck as a workhorse. It's what people love about it in terms of resale value that stays strong. The other element is practical durability and functionality. The Tacoma is going to be true to its identity of being tough and rugged. It's a truck that's built for a purpose. You can use it across a broad spectrum: for daily activities (your job) or the recreational side (off-road)."
Comparatively, the full-size Tundra hasn't captured the same market share as its smaller sibling but Toyota does continue to sell as many trucks as it can produce. The full-size truck segment is long-established and buyers are more brand-loyal but "the mid-size segment is the Goldilocks paradox," Brown said. "You don't want to be too small or too big, you want to be just right." In other words, building a mid-size truck can be challenging because buyers are sensitive to having the appropriate length.
"Everyone wants more bed space and everyone would like to see their cabin get bigger but we have to hold the line on overall length," Brown explained. The Tacoma is more versatile than many full-size trucks because it can fit into a garage and more easily navigate tight parking lots. Even in an off-road application, the Tacoma's smaller size is helpful to avoid creates from trees and bushes.
While the Tacoma is small by pickup truck standards, measuring anywhere from 212.3 to 225.5 inches in length makes it a pretty significant vehicle. The Tacoma and its mid-size competitors are still large vehicles, which is why Hyundai wants to enter the market with a smaller compact pickup truck called the Santa Cruz. When asked if Toyota would answer back with its own compact model below the Tacoma, Brown seemed skeptical.
"There are a lot of outside forces weighing on this segment," he began. "It's the customer voice. People are using their trucks more as their primary vehicle, not a specialty vehicle. What used to be acceptable - three-on-the-tree with bench seats and no storage behind it - that's not what people are using in their everyday life."