Toyota Considers Building Compact A-Bat Pickup, Shelves Light Duty Diesel for Tundra
By Chris Haak
This past January, Toyota showed its A-BAT compact unibody pickup truck at the Detroit. A-BAT is an acronym for Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck, and the truck was similar in style to the Honda Ridgeline (currently the only other unibody pickup on the market), but is substantially smaller than the Ridgeline. The A-BAT would be powered by either a hybrid powertrain or a four cylinder engine.
At the time the concept was shown, Toyota indicated that the truck did have the potential of future production; based on the fairly conservative styling (for a concept vehicle), that’s not surprising. Toyota, being its pesky fiscally-disciplined self, however, has to ensure that there is a viable business case for the A-BAT before committing it to future production. Supplier sources have said (and Toyota has confirmed) that Toyota has asked them for bids on components for the compact pickup, with the caveat that if costs prove too high, the product could be shelved or scrapped.
The idea of a true compact pickup – aside from the antediluvian Ford Ranger, which received its last complete overhaul for the 1993 model year (and will be 18 years old when it finally kicks the bucket for the 2011 model year) – certainly has a fair amount of appeal in these fuel cost-conscious times. The Ranger is currently the most fuel efficient pickup on the market, but a four cylinder A-BAT could easily surpass the Ranger’s numbers with a four cylinder powertrain, thanks to its lighter weight (unibody construction) and superior aerodynamics. Were the A-BAT to add a hybrid powertrain (rumor is that if it did, it would lift the Camry Hybrid’s 2.4 liter four cylinder and associated hardware), it would slay all pickup comers in terms of fuel efficiency.
At the other spectrum of Toyota pickup-related news is that Toyota’s previously announced plans to introduce a light duty diesel for the Tundra (which would compete directly with the planned offerings by GM, Ford, and Chrysler in the next few years) have been shelved due to the Tundra’s drop in sales (down about 15% year to date), the high pump price of diesel fuel in the US, and the high cost of diesel emission compliance for a company that’s always been very concerned about its green credentials. Of course, should the situation change (a retrenchment of diesel pump prices and a recovery of the full-size pickup truck market specifically), Toyota could un-shelve those plans quickly and get the V8 into buyers hands. For the time being, however, the company just doesn’t expect that it could sell enough Tundras with that engine to make it a viable option.
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