Did Toyota just preview the Maverick rival its dealers want?
The Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo is a hallmark event for the nation’s automakers, an annual occasion to drum up excitement for future models‚ both potential and planned. Ahead of 2023’s show, which runs from Thursday, October 26 to Sunday, November 5, Toyota unveiled a slew of concepts that signal the direction in which the automotive titan hopes to march. Sure, the electric Land Cruiser might be the sexiest idea, but this small truck is what really caught our attention.
It’s called the EPU, and it looks like a counterpunch to Ford’s red-hot Maverick, the first truly small pickup sold to consumers in years. The EPU is just a concept right now, but that shape looks remarkably attainable from a design, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance standpoint.
According to the limited details provided by Toyota, the EPU utilizes monocoque construction—a unibody, in other words—like that of the Maverick. The EPU is also a battery-electric vehicle, a characteristic that would set it apart from the Maverick, which relies either partly or fully on an internal-combustion engine.
Toyota calls the EPU a midsize pickup, but a glance at the dimensions reveals a machine that’s somewhere between a compact pickup like the Maverick and a midsize pickup like the Ranger or Tacoma. Of note: The EPU’s proposed overall length is 199.6 inches, which is actually 0.1 inches smaller than the Maverick. Width-wise, the EPU is 2.6 inches broader than a Maverick. Overall height is down 1.4 inches, Ford to Toyota.
The 131.9-inch wheelbase of the EPU, however, is nearly 11 inches longer than the Maverick’s. In fact, the wheelbase of the EPU is 3.2 inches longer than that of Ford’s new Ranger, which, as of the 2024 model year, is now exclusively offered with a crew cab and the 5-foot bed. Specs aren’t available yet for the all-new fourth-generation 2024 Tacoma, but if we lay the EPU’s dimensions next to those of the outgoing, third-gen Tacoma, the concept has an additional 4.5 inches between the wheels there.
The rest of the EPU looks quite promising. Toyota says that “the rear of the cabin links boldly with the deck to accommodate diverse user preferences.” Our suggested translation: The rear wall of the cabin, the one that separates passenger occupancy space from the truck bed, will fold to swallow lengthy objects. (Sound familiar? Chevrolet’s Silverado EV promises the same party trick.)
Earlier this fall, we noted that Toyota’s North American dealers were clamoring for a small truck to compete with the Maverick (and Hyundai’s Santa Cruz, although the latter has taken a significant backseat to the Ford when it comes to sales). While those discussions orbited around a gas-burner possibly underpinned by the Corolla platform, we wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota announces that it will hold off on a gas-powered little hauler and instead prioritize a battery-powered model like the EPU.
That said, can we work on the name please, Toyota? This trucklet seems like the perfect opportunity to revive the Stout nameplate, the small truck that helped spearhead Toyota’s breakthrough into the American market.