Toyota USA is “fighting” to bring the EPU compact truck into production as a Maverick killer

Toyota USA is “fighting” to bring the EPU compact truck into production as a Maverick killer

The ECU concept was designed by Toyota’s California design studio as a potential competitor to the Ford Maverick, featuring a longer wheelbase, more cargo space, and all-wheel drive.

27 October 2023 at 14:33

The new Toyota EPU concept unveiled at the Japan Mobility Show 2023 may seem one step away from production, but it has yet to get the official green light from the Japanese company. However, there’s a good chance it will find its way into showrooms as a potential competitor to the Ford Maverick, all while avoiding stepping on the toes of the hugely popular Tacoma, the current best-selling midsize truck in America.

According to a Toyota North America executive, the compact pickup project has been in development for more than three years. Speaking to Autonews, the unnamed executive revealed that he and his colleagues are actively advocating for this to be achieved. Furthermore, he stated that Toyota is aware of the strong demand for it in North America, stressing that “they just have to make it work.”

Pickup trucks are not in demand in Japan as they are in North America, which is why Toyota USA is taking the lead in advocating the introduction of such a vehicle. While the official name for the future production model has yet to be determined, a Toyota executive has refuted rumors about reviving the Stout moniker. The Stout name was previously used from the mid-1950s until the late 1980s for a light truck.

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It needs to be more affordable

The hurdles to overcome to make a compact EV truck a reality revolve primarily around addressing production costs, ensuring affordability, and positioning it in relation to the larger, ladder-frame-based Toyota Tacoma truck. According to the report, Toyota still needs to find ways to lower production costs for the compact electric truck to make it competitive with the Ford Maverick while avoiding encroaching on the price range of the Tacoma midsize truck.

Toyota North America’s CEO said that while replacing an EV powertrain with a conventional four-cylinder engine would make the compact pickup cheaper, it would also cause “emissions issues” and would likely not be approved by headquarters. Toyota’s main headquarters in Japan.

“We’re fighting for it,” the publishing executive said. “They know how much we want it. We just have to make it work.”

Designed in California

The EPU concept was developed at the Toyota Calty Design Research Center in Southern California. It was initially conceived as an interior design study but attracted the attention of Toyota executives who wanted to display it at the Japanese Mobility Expo and check the public’s reaction.

More: Toyota chief says ‘people are finally seeing the reality’ of electric vehicles

The test car is 199.6 inches (5,070 mm) long, almost identical to the Ford Maverick. However, its EV-specific monocoque underpinnings allow it to have a 131.8-inch (3,350 mm) wheelbase that’s 10.7 inches (272 mm) longer than Ford’s ICE-powered competition, putting it into midsize truck territory.

The same applies to the concept’s cargo-carrying capabilities thanks to clever design solutions. The standard bed is just 4.5 feet (1,372 mm) long, but it can expand to 6 feet (1,829 mm) with the tailgate open, and to 8 feet (2,438 mm) by opening the cabin section and folding the rear seats. A similar trick has been adopted by the larger but also all-electric Fisker Alaska pickup coming in 2025.

Toyota has yet to release specific details about the concept’s powertrain but has confirmed all-wheel drive capabilities and a large battery pack. The hope is that the automaker can successfully address the cost challenges and eventually bring the compact truck to the US market within the next few years.

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