The award is unusual, perhaps, in that the press release announcing it was coupled with a disclaimer explaining Toyota has dealt with a recent recall and teething issues surrounding the new Tundra, which is now built in a new plant in Texas.
The new Tundra stands out for its heavy-duty hardware that really takes on the Detroit full-sizers, along with newfound attention to refinement and an unprecedented level of standard safety equipment among pickups. According to the magazine, the truck ascended to the top thanks also to its class-leading performance and excellent load carrying and towing capabilities.
But the Tundra’s rollout this past year hasn’t been nearly as laudable as the product’s design; Toyota’s usual bulletproof reputation for quality was challenged in 2008 by a surprising recall for a potential major mechanical issue in thousands of Tundras.
According to Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong, the recall — not a safety-oriented one and thus not in the NHTSA’s recall database — was conducted earlier this year for the issue, affecting the Tundra’s new top-of-the-line 5.7-liter V-8 engine. According to Kwong, faulty camshafts made by a supplier, not Toyota, prompted the issue, and the automaker moved quickly to give all customers affected — about 20,000 vehicles in all — an entirely new engine rather than simply a new camshaft.
Motor Trend included a statement anticipating questions about the issue and whether it influenced the magazine’s decision. “Recalls are inevitable in an industry producing complex pieces of machinery like cars and trucks,” said editor in chief Angus MacKenzie, “We are satisfied the company has moved fast to rectify the issue, and that it does not alter our view of the fundamental excellence of the vehicle.”
This is the second time the Tundra has won the Truck of the Year distinction; it originally did for the 2000 model year, though then the model was considerably smaller than the full-size trucks from Chevy/GMC, Ford, and Dodge, and the Nissan Titan had not yet been introduced.
The Truck of the Year contest is open to vehicles that are completely new or redesigned in calendar-year 2007; this year the list included the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD, and Ford F-Series Super Duty.
-- Bengt Halvorson