Toyota Tundra maybe for Down Under
Toyota has never been noted for breaking new ground, but has built its reputation on doing things others have already done – but better. A planned RHD Tundra pickup program with Walkinshaw Automotive Group follows the success of RAM and Chevrolet in Australia.
In the past we’ve asked North American pick-up makers why they don’t do factory-built RHD utes for Oz and other RHD markets and they simply point to the likely sales forecasts in this market, compared with the USA, where the pickup is king. It just hasn’t been worth doing for this tiny market.
That’s why RHD conversions are done here, by Walkinshaw and others. However, building a ute; shipping it across the Pacific; pulling it to bits, converting everything necessary and putting it back together again is an expensive operation. That’s why converted US-market utes are relatively expensive.
Toyota USA has never been very interested in the Australian market, but Tundra sales in the USA drastically dipped, from 118,258 in 2018 to 81,959 in 2021, so that probably contributed to interest in a RHD project.
Toyota Australia has begun a development program in Australia for the Tundra pick-up, to re-engineer Tundra in RHD and evaluate the vehicle in Australia’s severe local conditions.
Toyota has partnered with Walkinshaw Automotive Group, because of its extensive experience in this type of work, to develop and build Tundra RHD vehicles for Australia.
Prototype testing on public roads began in September 2022 and, from late 2023, Toyota deployed 300 Tundras around Australia, as part of the final stage of the RHD re-engineering program.
Customers selected to be part of the evaluation program must sign a Full Service Lease, administered through Toyota Finance Australia. For a monthly payment of $2500, the lease covers six-month/10,000km scheduled servicing and maintenance, mechanical repairs, replacement tyres and Roadside Assist.
Comprehensive insurance provided by Toyota Insurance, registration and compulsory third-party insurance are also covered by the monthly lease payments.
The selected customers are required to report regularly to Toyota on their experiences and are barred from sharing any possible negative information on social media or with the press.
By way of explanation for this extraordinary process, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley, said this was an important step in what was a world-first local re-engineering program for Toyota, to ensure the Tundra is perfectly suited to the demands of Australian customers.
“Toyota has never undertaken a project like this before and we look forward to hearing what these first customers think and feel about the new Toyota Tundra,” he said. So do we, but we obviously won’t hear anything but good news.
“We know there is a demand for full-size pickups like the Tundra but we wanted to ensure that the local right-hand drive conversion and the vehicle as a whole met Toyota’s exacting standards for quality and the needs of our customers,” Mr Hanley said.
“That’s why we are putting this vehicle through such a rigorous and demanding evaluation program.
“Our engineers have been working on this project since 2019 and now, together with our partners at Walkinshaw Automotive Group, it’s great to see vehicles being delivered to our customers.”
Walkinshaw Automotive Group said all 300 deliveries were expected to be completed by April 2024.
Apart from moving the steering wheel and pedals to the right-hand side of the vehicle, the modified Tundra Limited features several new or modified components.
These include the steering rack, instrument panel, firewall, headlights, cabling, harnesses, front seats, carpet and trim, with many of the new components sourced from the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series.
The Tundra Limited is powered by the i-Force Max mild-petrol-hybrid powertrain that’s been available in the USA for years and also in some Australian-market Lexus wagons.
It consists of a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine, with a maximum power output of 290kW at 5200rpm and peak torque of 650Nm between 2400rpm and 3600rpm, coupled to a 36kW/250Nm electric motor/generator and 6.5Ahr nickel metal hydride battery (Ni-MH) that delivers claimed total system maximum outputs of 326kW and 790Nm.
The engine drives through a 10-speed automatic transmission with Eco, Normal and Sport modes that is combined with a part-time, all-wheel drive system, with a two-speed transfer case and limited slip differential.
Like all ‘1500 series’ US-market pick-ups, the Tundra has a payload rating of only 758kg, but with a trailer capacity of 4500kg, is ideal for towing applications. We’d love to find out what towing fuel consumption Australian customers experience, but maybe we won’t know until we get to test one.
We’re not going to bother listing all the Australian specs and equipment levels, because the final Australian market details may end up being different. That’s if the whole project goes ahead.
We expect the veil of secrecy will be lifted on the Tundra in a year or so. In the meantime there are plenty of other vehicles you can buy.