The second-generation Toyota Tundra, like this one, will be replaced by the brand’s new model, which will debut at the Chicago auto show.

Toyota will unveil the all-new 2014 Tundra full-size pickup February 7th at the 2013 Chicago auto show, and we expect big changes. This is a bit of déjà vu all over again as Chicago played host to the debut of the first truly full-size Tundra pickup—the 2007 model—in 2006. That 2007 truck made big waves with its oversized, Detroit-style grille and larger-than-life persona, qualities that had been missing from previous Toyota attempts to enter the full-size pickup arena. Toyota backed up the in-your-face look of the 2007 Tundra with generous interior proportions, knobs and controls big enough to be operated while wearing work gloves, and, at the time, the most powerful engine in Toyota’s lineup—a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8.

With the 2007 model, Toyota went head to head with Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Toyota targeted the entire full-size-pickup market, as does the Detroit Three, offering the Tundra with a choice of three cabs, three bed lengths, and three engines, including a thrifty V-6 and two V-8s. The Japanese automaker made a huge commitment to the U.S. market by building a new assembly plant for the Tundra in San Antonio, Texas, deep in the heart of truck country.

In 2007, Tundra sales nearly doubled from the previous year to 196,555 and the San Antonio plant was running close to full capacity. But the intensely loyal, highly satisfied full-size truck owners of F-150s, Silverados, Sierras, and Rams proved difficult to dislodge. Unlike the compact and mid-size car buyers the Detroit Three had disappointed with poor quality products throughout the previous decades, there just weren’t enough dissatisfied truck buyers for Toyota to lure into Tundras. Though the Tundra proved to be a great move-up truck for happy Tacoma owners, the headwinds of recession trimmed Tundra sales further, and from 2009 through 2011, sales slumped below 100,000—half the plant’s capacity.

  • Feature: Twist and Clout—Inside the Heavy-Duty-Truck Torque War
  • Long-Term Road Test: 2007 Toyota Tundra 4×4 Double Cab SR5 5.7L V-8
  • Short Take Road Test: 2011 Ford F-150 FX4 SuperCrew 4×4 EcoBoost V6

This year, however, gas prices have stabilized and home-building trends are way up, both good bellwethers for full-size pickup sales. There has been a lot of one-upmanship lately between Ford, GM, and Chrysler vying for payload and towing bragging rights. Expect Toyota to jump right into the fray with its new Tundra. The big question is whether Toyota will leverage its association with heavy-truck producer Hino and offer for the first time three-quarter-ton version of the Tundra with turbo-diesel power or take a page out of Ford’s playbook and move on personal-use truck buyers with a turbocharged version of its V-6. The answers to such questions will be revealed in Chicago next month.

By Ron Sessions