The Toyota T100 was a mid-sized to full-sized pickup truck introduced by Toyota in late 1992 as a 1993 calendar year vehicle. Although Toyota claimed the truck was really meant as an alternative to the compact trucks, including its own Toyota Hilux, the T100 was criticized for being too small to appeal to buyers of full-size work trucks. Another drawback many considered was the lack of a V8 engine which Toyota proclaimed was planned to showcase the T100's advantage in fuel economy and true purpose - to offer a larger truck that drove, acted and "felt" like a compact. Even though this was Toyota's official marketing plan, rumours at the time claimed that Toyota was trying to acquire small block V8 engines from General Motors (305 cubic inch/5.0 liter and 350 cubic inch/5.7 liter) for use within the trucks. Whether or not this ever went beyond someone's imagination or actual talks, no one knows, but ultimately the T100 never got a V8 and this was a serious limiter to sales.
Although sales were slow at start, the T100 sales did reach into the mid 40,000 vehicles sold range (1996) in the United States. Although decent numbers, from Toyota's standpoint (at the time), General Motors pickup sales were roughly 700,000 per year, while Ford sales surged from 550,000 to nearly 850,000 and Dodge went from 100,000 to 400,000 with the introduction of the new Dodge Ram in 1994. Coincidentally or not, sales of the T100 fell approximately 30% when the new Ram went on the market half a year or so after the T100's launch.
Beyond the issues of size and horsepower the T100 did receive some praises from the media, acquiring J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey "Best Full-Size Pickup" award and the "Best of What's New" award by Popular Science magazine in its first year on the market. It should also be noted that the T100 was the first vehicle - car or truck - ever to receive an "Initial Quality Survey Award" in its first year of production. In 1994 (the truck's second year) and 1995 (the third) the T100 was again awarded "Best Full-Size Pickup in Initial Quality" by J.D. Power and Associates. In 1997 the T100 was awarded "Top Three Vehicles in Initial Quality - Full-Size Segment" once again by J.D. Power and Associates.
As Toyota firmly established itself in the North American compact truck market in the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed to many only logical that Toyota needed to capture part of the lucrative full-size truck market. Rumored for many years until finally becoming a reality in 1993, the first big Toyota truck boasted a full-size (8 ft) bed but retained the engine and suspension characteristics of a compact truck. It was a bit larger than the mid-size Dodge Dakota but still smaller than a typical full-size pickup. It gave a the T100 a unique position within the truck ranks. Though economical and reliable, in the grand scheme of things it was not the greatest selling vehicle and had not captured as much of the market as Toyota had hoped. Although many of it purchasers would disagree many critics maintained the T100 was still too small, despite being bigger than Toyota's other truck, the Toyota Hilux and later the Tacoma.
When it was introduced, the T100 had one cab configuration, a regular cab, and one available engine, a 3.0 L V6 with and of torque. In 1994, a 2.7 L I4 engine with (like the 3.0 V6) and of torque was added in the hopes new buyers would be drawn in with promises of greater fuel economy and a lower price (than previous models). Toyota ultimately realized there was no other alternative but to add more power to the truck and in 1995 Toyota added the and of torque 3.4 L V6. An Xtra Cab model came along several months into the 1995 model year as well. The T100 received only minor changes throughout its run aside from the engine changes and the Xtra Cab addition. A driver-side airbag was installed in 1994 (a passenger-side air bag never became available) and larger 16" rims became the norm for most of the 4X4 models starting in 1997. It was evident by late 1996/ early 1997 that Toyota was already investing in its next truck (what ultimately became the Toyota Tundra). At the time (late 1990s) many believed, a revamped T100 was on the way (with the promise of a V8 engine) and there were some reports that altered V8 powered T100s were used as test-mules, but ultimately it never came to pass, and Toyota went back to the drawing board and the Toyota Tundra came to be.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) introduced a supercharger for the 3.4 liter engine in 1997 and it became available for the T100, the Tacoma and the 4runner with the 3.4 liter V6 (and later the Tundra). Horsepower jumped to the range (depending of the generation of the supercharger) and to of torque.
The T100 was manufactured and partially engineered by Toyota-subsidiary Hino. Three trim lines were offered: the base model, the DX, and the top-of-the-line SR5. The maximum towing capacity was 5,200 lb (2,360 kg) and the truck had a payload limit of 2,450 pounds. Although most trucks fell within the 1/2 ton realm, a 1 ton model was offered (in 2 wheel drive form) for several of its earlier years until finally being dropped because of a lack of interest.
All T100s were assembled in Tokyo, Japan. In late 1998 production moved to the United States with the opening of Toyota's new Tundra Gibson County, Indiana plant. Before moving production to the United States, the T100 was the last Japanese-built pickup made for North America. The US retail price of the T100 built entirely in Japan included a 25% import tariff. The Japanese-built T100s proved to be very reliable compared to US-built trucks during the same period. The T100 was discontinued in 1998 and replaced by the larger V8 powered Tundra. These trucks have however, become popular "used vehicle" purchases from both traditional Toyota and non-Toyota buyers because of its reliability track record and have maintained a strong resale value some fifteen years after its introduction.