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Tundra's Tough Test Begins

2007 Toyota Tundra
AP
2007 Toyota Tundra

A weekend of playoff football was the perfect place for Toyota to show it's new Tundra's are every bit as tough as the full size pick-ups from Ford, GM, and Dodge. The real test is not only how many American truck buyers paid attention to the Toyota ads, but ultimately, how many people buy the new Tundra.

Let's start with the ads. When I first saw them at the North American Auto Show in Detroit I immediately thought, "Boy, those sure are similar to the kind of ads you'd see for the F-series". There's the deep male voice extolling how the guts of the Tundra are as big and as tough as any American truck. There's the Tundra standing in a factory or tool shop. And there's the end with the Toyota trucks logo on what looks like a metal plate. Toyota may claim it's not trying to copy the "Built Ford Tough" ads, but for my money, the similarities are too hard to miss.

So how successful will these ads be? That's hard to say. I suspect Toyota will win over buyers who have bought Nissan Titan, a Honda Ridgeline, or a previous generation Tundra. And yes, the new Tundra will appeal to people who drive a big three truck. The new Tundra is the real deal, and Toyota's no longer looked at as a "foreign brand" by most Americans.

But the real challenge will be how many longtime F-series, Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Sierra pick-up owners. Most of those people are long term owners, who in many cases have had a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge truck in the family for years. They are among the most loyal vehicle owners, and for Toyota to break that bond will be tough.

Which brings us back to the Tundra ads. Toyota knows it has to go further to prove it's all-American. From sponsoring Nascar race teams, to marketing at state fairs, to running "meat and potato" type ads during the NFL playoffs, Toyota's toughest test is now winning over American truck buyers.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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