By on December 7, 2015

Toyota Configurator Front Pahe

We try to fact-check as much as possible during our article editing process. Such was the case this morning with Alex Dykes’ review of the newest Toyota Tacoma, and specifically the portion where he said that all manual Tacomas are paired with four-wheel drive.

There are two ways we normally check such a claim: an automaker’s media site, which provides detailed vehicle information (though not necessarily in a user-friendly format), and an automaker’s consumer-facing website, which contains all those fancy marketing words, pretty pictures and the typical “Build and Price” tool employed by virtually every full-line automaker as a way for us gearheads to waste time at our desk jobs on Friday afternoons.

However, while I was fact checking Mr. Dykes’ manual = four-wheel drive claim, the configurator said I couldn’t have a manual transmission on the Tacoma — at all.

Say what, Toyota?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of why I couldn’t find a manual transmission Tacoma on Toyota’s online configurator, there’s a reason why I use the consumer site in addition to the press website.

While the information on media sites is detailed, it’s only typically updated once a year per model. There are instances — though very few — where an automaker will modify options packages or add a “special edition” trim partway through a model year. Those changes are almost always reflected on the consumer website, but hardly ever added to press materials beyond a press release. Therefore, I tend to check both websites in the off-chance an automaker has made changes to a particular model.

Many consumer automaker websites now ask you to supply a ZIP code. As I don’t live in the United States, but I did live in Houston for a time, I usually use my old zip code of 77021. And here is where the confusion starts.

2016 Toyota Tacoma Configurator with Zip Code

Toyota splits the United States into twelve separate sales regions. Two of those regions are controlled by private distributorships not owned by Toyota corporate: Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC (SET), which controls Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina; and Gulf States Toyota Inc. (GST), which controls Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

(You know those “Texas Edition” Tundras? Blame Gulf States Toyota Inc., not Toyota USA, for those. Similar to dealer “special edition” packages, GST has a bunch of Lone Star State badges made and fits those trucks with wheels and other accoutrement to stroke your Texas pride.)

The first issue arises if you enter a ZIP code for any of the states under the control of SET. Instead of the national Toyota website, you are shuffled off to another website specifically for those states and controlled by SET. However, we are talking about my former Texas zip code, not one for South Carolina.

Entering a Houston ZIP code allows you to stay on the national website, but the configurator changes. I’m now given a limited selection for Tacoma. There are no manual transmission or four-wheel drive options for the truck.

 

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma SR should be available with a variety of different engine and driveline options, but only one is displayed.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma SR should be available with a variety of different engine and driveline options, but only one is displayed.

At first, I thought this might be a case of Toyota’s distributor, Gulf States, not making available manual transmission Tacomas in its sales region. So I gave Toyota East Coast Communications Manager, Corey Proffitt, a call.

“They do sell Tacoma with manual transmission,” he said. “But our configurator is tied to inventory. If a certain configuration of Tacoma is not in our inventory in a particular region, it’s not shown on the configurator.”

Changing the ZIP code to 10001 verifies this.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.58.26 PM

And there it is: a manual transmission Toyota Tacoma available solely with four-wheel drive, as per Dykes’ claim.

What does this mean for the consumer?

For starters, Toyota really wants you to buy a Tacoma from the currently available inventory and subtly discourages online shoppers from ordering a truck that isn’t sitting on a dealer’s lot. This issue is exacerbated by the Tacoma’s low inventory levels. With fewer trucks on the ground, there’s less choice — even in the configurator. Manual transmission take rates on Tacoma are typically between 15 to 20 percent, further limiting the chance you’d see a stick shift in inventory and, thusly, on Toyota’s configurator.

This mechanism also furthers Jack Baruth’s point on dealers being the ultimate consumer of vehicles. In this case, if a Tacoma isn’t on a dealer’s lot, you aren’t buying it — or at least that’s what the configurator would like you to think.

If you know you want a Tacoma SR with a manual transmission and live in Texas, you can still buy one. However, you need to know that it, in fact, exists first. You’ll also need to go into a dealer to price it out, order one without driving it first since there aren’t any available on the lot to test drive, then wait for the factory in San Antonio to build it for you.

For a company that currently ranks below average in J.D. Power’s U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index, maybe this is something it should look into fixing.

Correction: We originally reported that Toyota has five sales regions nationally. Toyota actually has twelve sales regions within the United States, five of which are within the north east, Mr. Proffitt’s region of responsibility. SET and GST each count as one region.

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63 Comments on “Toyota’s Online Configurator Doesn’t Work How You Think It Works...”


  • avatar

    Website designed by the same team that created the ACA website?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Very interesting. I would not have thought the consumer website accurate enough to reflect current inventory. Especially since the label is “Build and Price.” I should be able to make -any- combination which is available that year! Not just what Bob Lamearse Toyota in Dallas has available.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    I have to agree with Mark, the process is vexing because at first glance I thought they had canned the manual transmission all together except it was clearly listed on the media information site.

    • 0 avatar

      So it doesn’t show up for California either?

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        To get the manual transmission with a 4 cylinder in Texas, in other words the Gulf States Region, you need the Toyota model #, which is 7513 for the Access Cab, 4×4 base model.

        The is no model # for Quad Cab, 4 cylinder with a manual transmission.

        Check out the available configurations at the bottom the link below:

        http://toyotanews.pressroom.toyota.com/releases/2016+toyota+tacoma+debut+aug17.htm

  • avatar
    kit4

    Their configurator on the website is terrible and always has been. I just read a paper brochure from the dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I think the configurator is just a dreamer’s toy. It is NOT what the dealership uses to order Toyota vehicles for the floorplan.

      Toyota furnishes a production run listing to each dealership ~ June and whoever orders the vehicles for the dealership, makes their selection.

      In every state there is at least one dealership that also serves as the distributor for that state or region, and they receive pre-positioned stock that every dealer serving that area can draw from. This is known as “national inventory” as opposed to “dealer inventory.”

      The “transfer” or “documentation” fee covers the prepositioning and interest expenses. And then there are always the inter-dealer swaps from dealer stock.

      The configurator gives the dreamers a chance to dream. It does not reflect what is available in the real world. If you want something built specifically to your specs, place your order during the month of June, but be prepared to get more equipment if the production run includes more equipment.

      This information is current as Sept 30, 2012, at which time I left the Toyota new car retail business.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’m pretty sure Toyota would love nothing more than to get rid of the regional distributorships.

    SE Toyota tacks on a stupid fee for the privilege of buying a Toyota in their region, and unless you special-order, it’s nearly impossible to get one without the stupid “ToyoGuard” package, which pretty much includes every stupid extra that any site that talks about negotiating with car dealerships tells you to refuse to pay for. (Paint protection, fabric protection, Anti-theft etching, etc.)

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I worked for a company that printed marketing and FI material for SET, this is where those special edition, fabric topped, gold badge wearing Avalons came from. That was a SET “package”. Which goes along with what sirwired said above: the SET vehicle (which comes into the US via the port of Jacksonville, FL) has all kinds of add-ons you couldn’t delete because the cars were prepped that way BEFORE reaching the dealer himself. This even included different rims/wheels, pin stripping and other appearance packages that Toyota never offered. SET had leather interior options, DVD players (for mini vans/SUVs), interior lighting, running boards, brush guards, bed covers, window tint, mud flaps and all sorts of random aftermarket bits that (appeared to me at least) to be standard aftermarket fare, but marked up 200% because they were “Toyota Approved”. I’m sure many people were duped into thinking these cars came this way from Japan.

      Its a very strange system Toyota has here with these regional distribution channels… does any other OEM have such a system?

      • 0 avatar

        Most of the Japanese companies set them up when they first started, presumably because they were too small to set them up themselves. Most of them have been bought out and folded back into the companies, but a few holdouts remain.

        http://www.autonews.com/article/19960626/ANA/606260725/todays-five-distributors-remain-tough-savvy

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Southeast Toyota are leeches who limit choice. I live in NC but have to go to Maryland to buy Toyotas to get what I want.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    That’s because gulf states toyota is the GD devil… No I don’t want your stupid added protection packages and ugly “premium” wheels…

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      If you live in a Gulf Coast state, the only way to really use the configurator is to put in a false zip. Otherwise, it’s totally useless. One thing is for sure, Toyota is proof that the web is a nice tool, but clearly not a definitive driving force in real car sales. Otherwise their site would knock them into Lada territory.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    A decade ago I asked a dealer to order a Sienna configuration (red/LE-8/ESC/side airbags) that wasn’t locally available. It took about 2 months to come in.

    IIRC the configurator has always had fewer configurations and options across different model lines. Less variations = more profit, right?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Ruggles will be along any minute to tell you that you’re a baby and need to grow up because you want to know whether you can buy something other than what your local dealer has in inventory.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This isn’t just a Toyota thing – I see configuration errors in different car maker websites all the time – including huge ones like this.

    Tasks like this are general contracted out to the lowest bidders in outside web development who gives the task to Ricky, the intern to do. Ricky’s boss is too busy playing Angry Birds to review their work, and will just blame Ricky if it goes wrong anyway.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I know it’s old fashion but would not the brochure, (even in a more modern pdf format) list all the options? Just checked and it shows a manual on some of the models but doesn’t mention if it’s limited to RWD or 4WD

    ps Glad to see Toyota still has a direct link to download brochures instead of a contact form

    • 0 avatar

      You can get a full list of trims, options and specs online, too, but it’s nice to have a tool to do the maths, ya know?

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Usually brochures have little to no pricing info. I don’t just want to know what’s available, I want to know what it costs, too. And brochures aren’t always clear about conflicting options, where a good configurator will call it out.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        Costco has a buying service that not only lists invoice pricing of each model # – It also lists invoice pricing on trim packages and accessories.

        If you play it right using Costco by contacting multiple internet reps at many different dealerships, you should be able to negotiate a price hundreds of dollars below invoice even on a Toyota.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    You can’t get a manual transmission if you go for the double cab on the SR model. That really sucks.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Baruth was right. Consumers are not the customers of manufacturers.

    VW tried eliminating the “Build & Price” section of their website. Instead, the site only showed you what was available at local dealers. There was a lot of backlash, and VW reversed their decision – you can once again “Build & Price” a VW.

    Some dealers will allow you to order a car, but they really don’t want to. They want to move what’s on the lot.

    On the other hand, if a dealer makes a bad decision when ordering cars from the manufacturer, the consumer can win.

    Right now, I’m playing the back-and-forth with a local Hyundai dealer. Some genius decided to order a couple 2015 Accents in “Vitamin C Pearl”, aka “Orange”. I think it’s a neat color, but apparently no one else does.

    I test drove the Accent Sport 6MT in orange. It’s been on this dealer’s website since at least February. It only had 22 miles on it as of November, meaning no one had even test-driven it before I showed up.

    Will they take my lowball offer? Maybe – the 2016 models are flooding the lot. How long do they want to sit on 2015 cars?

    I have a feeling I’ll win this one, and the guy who ordered TWO Accents (1 GS trim, 1 Sport trim) in 6MT with Orange paint will have some ‘splainin to do to the boss.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Does B&M still make a short throw manual shifter for Hyundai? I think those could be some pretty hot little rides for cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        Yes they do, Dan. It’s a dealer-installed accessory now. It is one of the demands I threw in my lowball offer :)

        Interestingly, you can’t buy it directly through B&M (or their distributors) now – only directly from Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in 2006, I got what I think was a pretty sweet deal on a bright yellow Ranger. I bought it in July 2006. It had a build date of July 2005. Evidently, I’m the only person who wanted a yellow truck. Although the cops seemed to like pulling me over in it too.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “… the cops seemed to like pulling me over…”

        Yep. You nailed it. In the collective-cops mind, anyone who drives a “HEY, LOOK AT ME” vehicle, like one with a bright color, is bound to be an overzealous driver on the roads as well. What better opportunity to “mine” the highway for dollars?

        A guy I know who drives a bright-yellow Corvette has told me his “tales from the highway” where he has been pulled over in states from coast to coast. And to prove it, he sent me “selfies” of him and the cop, among them a real babe-cop who pulled him over outside Minden, NV.

        Note this though, he’s in his middle to late seventies, can no longer get it up, and drives a Corvette with an Automatic on Cruise Control.

        He hasn’t got the reflexes to drive fast, and probably never had them to begin with. He’s just rubber-necking to see what there is to see.

        So he has always gotten off with a verbal warning, once the cop has identified him as not being a speed-threat, even from the babe-cop in NV.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    A gentleman who worked for the local Toyota dealer (Gallup, NM) claimed to me that back when you could still order a bench seat extended cab Toyota pickup Toyota wouldn’t let them order any in that configuration.

    The dealer was trying to do so because of the habit locally of trying to cram as many butts into as many seats as possible in every vehicle.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I live in Oklahoma City, which, like you said, would be part of the Gulf State region. I was not asked for a zip code by the configurator, so I probably gave it permission to view my location at some point.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Excellent, and very sober article. I would have struggled to keep the expletives on the inside.

    A 15-20% manual rate sounds good, btw, on the auto continent. Or did I misread that?

    • 0 avatar

      Tacoma caters to a more enthusiastic audience, so 15 to 20 percent take rate seems on point. I’m not sure how that breaks down between I-4 and V-6, though.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I’d buy a fully loaded Canyon V6 or Duramax 6MT. But I guess I am the only one.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You like being the unicorn, don’t you?

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          No, I just want the vehicle I want with a stick. Is that so wrong?

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I’ll give you an example, 28. I am guessing in the case of the Canyon, its not worth it to them to certify another drivetrain layout. Maybe the 3.6V6 doesn’t have an available 6MT thats compatible with the 4×4 transfer case or something. I get that in this case, a whole extra drivetrain layout costs money.

            However, I have recently stated my liking of the Kia Forte 5 SX 1.6T. Now, you can get the 1.6T SX with the 6AT or 6MT. And, the SX trim has a pretty high content level. But if you want HID’s and a sunroof, both features that wont require any extra EPA or IIHS certification to offer with either transmission, all of a sudden you’re stuck with the AT. This just doesn’t make sense to me.

            So, I get that putting a bunch of different powertrain configs into production is costly, why all of the comfort and convenience can’t be offered with a stick is mind boggling.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Dave its nothing new. GM notoriously put leather in its highest trims for years in C-P-C models for example while conversely a sunroof could be usually had in lower trims. Sometimes though it could only be had in a model of a higher brand (i.e. early Pontiac N-body vs Olds N-body). HIDs are awful anyway, I want a US ban for safety reasons. If you must have them, can’t they just be retrofitted manually?

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Factory HIDs arent awful. Factory HIDs must be designed to meet FMVSS108, which includes strict requirements for glare above the cutoff, and color (4300K white, not the 5000 k and up blue and purple nonsense). In fact, the main reason that HID’s are generally decent is that the HID option on a car that comes with different trim levels of headlamps is is typically the “premium” option, so it HAS to be better than its lower end counterpart.

            No, the issue with HIDs is idiots dropping HID (and now LED) capsules into headlamp assemblies designed for any bulb but that specific one, which invalidates the optical engineering of the assembly. Headlamp design starts with the bulb. Halogen, HID, LED, and then the optics are shaped to that particular light-source’s characteristics.

            http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/bulbs/Hid/conversions/conversions.html

            And yes, in this specific case, You could buy the lower end Forte, and buy the complete HID assembly from the dealer. That is the ONLY legal and safe way to retrofit HIDs onto a car. HID drop ins are a total non-starter, and installing the projector only from another completed assembly is also fraught with issues.

            http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?380558-What-s-wrong-with-projector-retrofits

            So, like you, I am passionate about people not having glaring, dangerous headlights. But banning properly engineered factory assemblies of any lightsource isn’t the way. Cracking down on the availability of all of the hardware coming in from overseas that allows people to dangerously “upgrade” their lighting is a much better way. And stiff fines for vehicles running obviously dangerous lighting. But that is a whole other issue.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with your overall suggestion but a “twilight sentinel” like capability where they somehow dim as to not blind people in an oncoming path is encouraged.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You think you want that. But you really want a Sierra with the 6.2L V8.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          And a stick!?!?!

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          A friend has a 2015 Sierra Denali. It only has a 5.3L V8, which is a fart in the wind compared to the Tundra’s 5.7L V8. He also had his wheels stolen a couple days ago, which suddenly seems to be a thing again if you have the same taste in vehicles that bad people do. A neighbor in Pacific Beach had the wheels stolen off his Wrangler in the past three weeks. I thought this sort of crime went out of fashion with David Dinkins. Doesn’t Obama hand out enough plundered loot to keep those not gainfully employed from doing their own stealing?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The 5.3L is terrible. GM seems to have purposely made it terrible with the transmission programming and tune.

            And no, Rudy didn’t stop all the wheel thieves. If you Google “stolen wheels” or something similar, you will find a long list of incidents. Often, wheels get stolen from dealerships. There are theft rings that have been hitting people and businesses across the country. This was the most recent:

            http://www.ksat.com/news/180-tires-wheels-stolen-from-ancira-winton-chevrolet

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            The issue with the 5.3L is the throttle and transmission mapping. My brother’s Sierra 5.3L is the same way. Makes you wonder where the advertised power is.

            My research has led me to believe its the “Torque Management” programming that GM employs in these trucks. Basically dulls the throttle response to ooze out just enough power to get you going.

            I’ve also read this can be cured with a tune, but that of course has warranty implications. Shame that they have hobbled what should be a very satisfying vehicle even in “small” V8 form.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The 5.3L V8 in a Silverado is one of the best selling points for the 2.7TT V6 in the F150.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I hear the 8 speed has more forgiving programming…

            Out! Out GM Fanboi demon!

            Shutup DW, you arent helping!

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I was attracted like a moth to a flame…

            …someone mentioned GM?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We will see if GM will follow Ford and decide to roll out the 10-speed to their whole full-sized truck and SUV lineup.

            Then we will see if they $hit the bed with the programming.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Deadweight smells blood in the water.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Oh my God, I say his name and he appears. *shudders*

            DW, you called me out the other day and didn’t even have the decency to respond to my well reasoned and impassioned response.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            I have the engine in a ’99 Silverado with 4-speed auto. Never thought it was terrible. Power delivery is not as smooth as I’d like. Mostly it’s the components that caused me trouble.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Not that 5.3L. The current 5.3L. You have the Gen III small block. The current Gen V 5.3L debuted in 2014.

            For the time, the 5.3 with the 4 speed was more than adequate.

            I don’t think that the current 5.3L is a bad engine. It is hobbled by GMs throttle mapping and strange transmission programing.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            Oh yea I see now you are all talking about the Ecotec. I’m sure it’s programmed for max fuel economy, performance be damned.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    It is s double edged sword. On one hand, I have a pretty good idea of what a dealer will be able easily to find for me. On the other hand, it is discouraging to see the price tick higher and higher for things I don’t want.

    I’m looking for a 4Runner Trail to replace my recently totaled Rav4. The super low number of them available in the midAtl area is disheartening. I could go SR5 like my previous 4Runner, but I always regretted not getting the Trail in that one. Plus KDSS is awesome

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    The Toyota website has been this way for years. At least in Washington and California where I’ve been. If you want real detail, you have to download the brochures.

  • avatar

    sheesh!

  • avatar
    zip89105

    Toyota’s ‘build’ website has sucked for years. I’ve made email complaints about this to Toyota, and while it’s better it can use a few improvements.

  • avatar

    The Lexus site seems to do this as well. Can’t build a RWD IS (AWD only) with my CT zip but can with a CA zip.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Interesting. When I leased my 2015 Tacoma from Scranton Toyota, the salesman told me that the only color available in my configuration was white. When I went on the website configurator, sure enough all the other color choices were unavailable.

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