There are a number of major consequences springboarding off the early August 2017 announcement that Toyota and Mazda would come together to build an assembly plant in Somewhere, United States.
First, Mazda production returns to the United States for the first time since the Mazda 6 left Flat Rock, Michigan, in 2012.
Third, Toyota will acquire a 5-percent stake in Mazda, while Mazda returns the favor by claiming a 0.25-percent portion of Toyota.
And to the increasingly pickup-truck-conscious U.S. consumer, the most significant consequence of the Toyota-Mazda partnership will be more Toyota Tacomas. That’s right: more pickup trucks for America.
Toyota, of course, is already renovating its Tijuana, Mexico assembly plant for a 60-percent production increase of Mexico-built Tacomas, having previouslyÂ increased the number of shifts at Toyota’s truck plant in San Antonio, Texas.
But with a new Mazda-shared factory coming on line in the U.S., the Toyota Corolla that was going to be built at Toyota’s upcoming Guanajuato, Mexico facility will instead be assembled north of the Rio Grande. That means Toyota will build even more Tacomas in Mexico, this time at a plant designed to produceÂ 200,000 Corollas.
Granted, Toyota won’t add 200,000 Tacomas to its current capacity (160,000 Tijuana Tacomas and 135,000 Texas Tacomas), but Toyota clearly intends to earn back a hefty chunk of the market share it lost to General Motors over the last two years. Yet according to Toyota’s North American CEO Jim Lentz, the reason the Tacoma hasn’t been able to generate greater sales growth in the recent past is purely down to a lack of supply.
“Right now if you ask our dealers what’s the No. 1 vehicle we need more of, what are customers coming in [to buy] and we don’t have enough to supply their needs, it’s Tacoma.”But San Antonio, Tijuana, and Guanajuato? Is there not a possibility of having too many Tacomas?
Toyota is so far from having too many that excessive supply is not on the list of near-term concerns. Cars.com lists fewer than 20,000 Tacomas in stock, or about 29 days of supply. In an industry that believes 60 days is ideal, the Tacoma’s relative scarcity on dealer lots is problematic.
Toyota will face more challenges in the midsize truck market, however, with the upcoming Ford Ranger due in 2019. Toyota’s goal, right around the time the Ranger comes on stream, is to overcome that challenge by flooding the market with Tacomas in a way the companyÂ is not presently capable of doing.
Toyota set a U.S. Tacoma sales record in 2015 and broke it in 2016, but sales are only slightly better than flat through the first seven months of 2017 because Toyota doesn’t have enough Tacomas to truly meet demand. Toyota still owns 43 percent of America’s midsize truck market, but that’s down from 65 percent in 2013, when competitors were few and far between.
With a Mazda cohabiting arrangement, Jim Lentz tells Automotive News, “This gets me pickup capacity quicker than anything else because I’ve already got a plant under construction.” Not lost in Toyota’s move to open up the taps on a huge amount of Tacoma capacity, of course, is the move of future Corolla production from a plant that could build 200,000 per year in Mexico to a Mazda-shared U.S. plant where 150,000 Corollas can be assembled.
More pickup trucks? Sorely needed. More sedans? Not so much.
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.