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Exclusive: Strict rules for Toyota Tundra trial customers in Australia exposed

The first 300 customers of the Toyota Tundra pick-up in Australia will be asked to sign a contract with strict conditions never seen before for the rollout of a new vehicle locally.


EXCLUSIVE

Customers who sign up to be among the first 300 people to take delivery of a Toyota Tundra pick-up in Australia will be asked to sign a contract with strict conditions that ban them from sharing their ownership experience on social media, and compel them to meet a number of other requirements.

Following the success of the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado in Australia – and the imminent arrival of the Ford F-150 – Australia's largest car maker is poised to join the US pick-up battle locally with the arrival of the Toyota Tundra around the corner.

However, Toyota is taking the extraordinary step of putting the first 300 vehicles – which will be converted from left- to right-hand drive by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group in Melbourne, the former parent company of Holden Special Vehicles – in a real-world customer trial before making the vehicle available as part of the Toyota showroom line-up.

A letter from Toyota to prospective participants in the Tundra Insider Program advises customers will need to make their vehicles available for frequent detailed technical inspections, and to not share their experiences on social media or with motoring media outlets.

While the more frequent technical inspections are understandable – given the program was established to detect early any rectification work that may be required before ramping up production – the ban on social media activity is unusual given the vehicles will be in the public domain and on public roads.

The social media ban is also at odds with other owners' groups that have been established on platforms such as Facebook where customers can openly and honestly share their experiences, both good and bad.

Toyota Tundra customers who take part in the 'Insider Program' must agree to "avoid any comment about the Tundra on social media, and refrain from mentioning or discussing the lease agreement, or the Tundra itself, with any media outlets."

In addition, the letter to Toyota Tundra customers says "participants are prohibited from loaning their Tundra to any motoring press, other journalists or any influencers/bloggers for review or coverage purposes."

The Toyota Tundra contract also prohibits customers from fitting any non-genuine accessories to their vehicles for the first 12 months of the lease program.

Participants do have the option to extend their lease program for a further six months (for a total period of 18 months), upgrade to a new model, or hand the vehicle back after the trial program has concluded.

Drive has been told customers are being quoted a lease fee in excess of $2000 per month to be part of the Insider Program.

As part of the more frequent technical inspections, once the first service is completed one month or 1000 kilometres after taking delivery, customers will be required to take their vehicles to a Toyota service outlet every three months or 5000km, whichever comes first.

Vehicles that clock up more than 30,000km in the first six months will only need inspections every six months or 10,000km from that point onwards.

The Toyota Tundra may be the last of the four US-made pick-ups to arrive in Australia with factory backing, however it is expected to be a formidable competitor.

If the first 300 Toyota Tundra vehicles pass muster during the trial, the vehicle will then become part of the Toyota showroom line-up locally.

Given Toyota has a network of more than 250 dealerships nationally – compared to about 180 Ford outlets, and about 55 showrooms each for Ram and Chevrolet – it has a broader footprint to sell the Tundra in much greater numbers than its US pick-up rivals.

For now Ram Trucks Australia remains the dominant force in the US pick-up market locally, outselling Chevrolet by more than two to one.

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Joshua Dowling

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for more than 10 years.

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