Toyopet Light Truck Model SKB

When the Toyopet Super, Model RH series of passenger cars and the Toyopet Truck, Model RK debuted in September 1953, the customer purchasing trend began to shift to these vehicles equipped with the large-output R engine.

Under such a circumstance, a plan was conceived to develop an inexpensive, simple, and practical light truck, in order to increase demand for vehicles equipped with the S engine. Specifically, in the spring of 1954, designing commenced on a cab-over truck based on the bonnet-type Model SK truck chassis. In this development project, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. was responsible for designing the chassis; Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, the engine; and Toyota Auto Body, the body, in line with production roles, and technical staff from all three companies were mobilized. As a result, a new vehicle model was completed within an extremely short period of time and the Toyopet Light Truck Model SKB (the predecessor of the Toyoace) was launched in September of the same year.

Table 1-30 shows the specifications and dimensions of the small truck Models SKB and SK. Although the Model SKB had the same overall length and chassis size as the Model SK, the side length within its truck bed was extended by 568 millimeters (29 percent) to 2,525 millimeters, demonstrating the advantage of a cab-over truck.

Table 1-30. Specifications of the Model SKB and Model SK Small Trucks (1955)

Item
Model SKB
Model SK
Length
4,237 mm
4,265 mm
Width
1,675 mm
1,674 mm
Height
1,850 mm
1,735 mm
Wheelbase
2,500 mm
2,500 mm
Track (front)
1,325 mm
1,325 mm
Track (rear)
1,350 mm
1,350 mm
Chassis weight
730 kg
815 kg
Vehicle weight
1,130 kg
1,175 kg
Maximum load
1,000 kg
1,000 kg
Engine
Model S (30 hp)
Model S (28 hp)
Source:
Toyota Engineering Society's, Toyota Technology, p. 7, March 5, 1955.

Especially notable about the Toyopet Light Truck Model SKB is the fact that Toyota sold it as a completed vehicle instead of selling the chassis as it had with other trucks (Models SB, SG, and SK). Body manufacturing, which had been a business of Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd., was transferred to a production process managed by Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. and was to be carried out by Toyota Auto Body. Meanwhile, car body manufacturers, who were incorporated into the completed vehicle sales system, were positioned more like satellite plants of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd., and were required to possess the same levels of manufacturing technologies, quality control, and management technologies (such as for controlling production) as Toyota Motor Co., Ltd.1 As a result of the completed vehicle sales system, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. was now responsible for setting the selling prices for its vehicles and for quality assurance.

Incidentally, the price of the Model SKB truck2 was set at 625,000 yen (retail price in Tokyo) at its launch in September 1954. The Model SKB truck was as much as 190,000 yen (44 percent) more than the average 435,000 yen price of the four, three-wheeled truck (1-ton load capacity, truck bed length of 2.4 m) models in the same class. The higher price, combined with the effect of the recession at that time, caused the sales volume of the Model SKB truck to remain sluggish, with only about 200 units produced per month.

In 1955, the following year, the profit rate of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. rose3, assisted by the effects of streamlining based on the Five-Year Facility Modernization Plan and improved profitability from healthy sales of the first-generation Toyopet Crown Model RS, a completed vehicle mounted with an internally manufactured body, launched in January of that year. Against the backdrop of this excellent financial result, the company developed a plan to reduce the price of the Model SKB truck and enhanced the production facility at Toyota Auto Body in late 1955.

On January 1, 1956, Toyota reduced the price of the Model SKB truck to 560,000 yen, narrowing the price difference over three-wheeled trucks in the same class to 125,000 yen (29 percent). This price reduction, combined with the economic boom occurring at the time, began to boost demand for the Model SKB truck. In addition, a further price reduction to 538,000 yen instituted on May 17, 1956 helped the production volume in June of the same year to surge to 1,052 units.

In 1956, Toyota asked the public to suggest a nickname for the Model SKB truck and selected 'Toyoace' in July. As the 'ruck of Japan' the Toyoace truck occupied the ace position as its name implied. The Toyoace also helped promote a transition to a multiple dealer system with multiple dealers within each prefecture and created an opportunity for the three-wheeler industry to enter the four-wheeler market.

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