Developing the 2016 Toyota Tacoma

“We’re engineers.

“We’re engineers. We live for a challenge.”

So says Mike Sweers, chief engineer for Trucks at Toyota.

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Mike Sweers and the 2016 Toyota Tacoma (Photo: Dewhurst Photography for Toyota)

The challenge he and his colleagues most recently took on was the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, the midsize truck (or “small pickup” or “compact pickup”) that’s basically dominated the segment for the past decade.

According to the most recent numbers from Autodata, through September, 133,672 vehicles in that category have been sold this year. Of that number, 63,232 are Tacoma, or about 47%--and realize that the new ones haven’t yet hit the showrooms.

(The trucks are now being built at Tacoma is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) in San Antonio and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Baja California (TMMBC) in Baja California, Mexico.)

Sweers explains that the focus at Toyota is on QDR—quality, durability, and reliability. And that for a Camry owner, for example, that means something along the lines of having a car that needs only regularly scheduled maintenance and nothing major. For Tacoma owners, it means the ability to turn that odometer over 100,000 on roads that may only be hinted at without having to deal with anything major.

So they went at the development of this vehicle knowing full well that it has to deal with the most-demanding conditions, which meant engineering it with plenty of high-strength, and even ultra-high-strength steels—including hot-stamped 1480 MPa material, the first-ever use by Toyota.

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One of the most amazing—yes, amazing—features of the Tacoma is Crawl Control. As you can see, this truck is up to its axles in sand. Through the use of Crawl, which controls both the engine and brake torque at each wheel individually, the vehicle will work its way out while the driver does nothing but control the steering as necessary. Think of it as autonomous extraction.  (Photo: Dewhurst Photography for Toyota)

And while on the subject of stamping—and know that the body panels are creased and formed in a way that contributes to the design brief that Sweers gave to the designers at CALTY in Newport Beach: “I want a bad-ass truck”—Sweers says, “We violate about. . .all of our stamping rules on this truck.”

Sweers had previously done the 2014 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup, and says that some of the learnings that they used in developing that truck for the Tacoma (e.g., the use of a three-piece rear bumper instead of one, which makes it easier—and less costly—to replace in case of damage).

Sweers talks about all this on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with host John McElroy, Chris Paukert of CNET and me. (Did you ever hear of an engineering team that had dirt, dust and sand sent to them in order to develop a truck that could deal with demanding conditions the world over? The Tacoma team did.)

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Model X

In addition to which, John, Chris and I talk about the introduction of the Tesla Model X, the potential fallout of the continuing VW diesel debacle and more on the show.

And you can see it right here: