Fruitport, Michigan, United States
Despite the earnest efforts of Japanese automakers like Toyota and Nissan, the American pickup truck scene remains wholly dominated by the likes of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. This is not news. Part of the reason is because of the sheer number of variants offered by US automakers - everything from work-spec base trucks to house-leveling heavy duty models can be had, with a seemingly endless combination of engines, cab sizes, bed lengths and trim levels. It's a hugely profitable business, and though the Japanese automakers still offer competitive fullsize trucks, in terms of sheer volume, they simply don't compete.
But American pickups aren't just about work; there's a huge play aspect involved, too. Look at the desert-storming Ford F-150 SVT Raptor or the Ram Power Wagon - these butch trucks are built with superb off-road prowess in mind, and Detroit's Japanese rivals have once again largely been silent in this segment. Until now.
Introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota now offers the TRD Pro series of models that, in addition to the crazy-orange Tundra seen here, includes the smaller Tacoma pickup and 4Runner SUV. And this isn't just some pretty appearance package, either - there's honest-to-goodness capability baked into all of the TRD Pro models. Intriguing, for sure, so I recently spent a weekend with the big boy Tundra to see what's what.
UPDATE: Just like that, Toyota has released an official statement confirming its $1.2-million dollar settlement with the US Attorney's Office. Our story has been updated to reflect this development and the automaker's official statement has been added below.
Toyota has reached a settlement over the criminal probe into its unintended acceleration problems, and the outcome is more expensive than first expected. The Japanese automaker has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to close the investigation among other settlement terms. The criminal inquiry focused on whether the company kept information from regulators and how it handled drivers' complaints about the problems, according to the sources.
Between 2009 and 2010, Toyota ended up recalling over 10 million vehicles worldwide over sudden acceleration fears. Fixes include modifying floor mats, gas pedals, and installing brake override software on affected models. In addition, Toyota made the latter standard on all of its new vehicles.
When you build as many cars and trucks as Toyota does, you're bound to run into the occasional recall. In the past month alone, the Japanese auto giant has recalled over 800,000 Camry, Avalon and Venza models over problems with the air-conditioning units, and 10,000 more before that over windshield wiper issues. Now Toyota has issued another recall notice, but this time for far fewer vehicles.
The recall revolves around the engine valve springs in the 2013 and 2014 Tacoma, specifically those fitted with the standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and not the optional 4.0-liter V6. The issue is that the valve springs are prone to cracking and breaking over time, and results from improper maintenance of the manufacturing equipment used by one of the two suppliers that outfit Toyota with the components in question.
All told, some 4,000 vehicles will be subject to the voluntary recall, the owners of which will receive notice by mail. If you think that could be you and want to get a jump on the problem, you can read the announcement below and call Toyota yourself.