Why The Toyota Land Cruiser Is Disappearing From America
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Why The Toyota Land Cruiser Is Disappearing From America


The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of
the auto industry’s longest lasting and many would say most widely respected
brands in continuous production since the 1950s. It is Toyota’s longest selling vehicle
and a living piece of automotive history. The Land Cruiser helped Toyota
gain credibility as a maker of tough, durable vehicles at a time
when Japanese automakers needed to convince skeptical buyers. It was also one of the first
vehicles Toyota imported to the United States, helping to establish the reputation
that turned Toyota into one of the best selling brands
in the country. The Land Cruiser is the only model
in the Toyota lineup that has been available for every single model year
since Toyota came to the United States in 1958. Every other Toyota model
has come and gone. Nothing has been in the market with
that nameplate on every single year other than Land Cruisers. Early versions of the Land Cruiser were
known for their Spartan design and Off-Road capability, while later Iterations became
popular as a high end family hauler in the
SUV crazed 1990s. But in 2019, the Land Cruiser appears
to be disappearing from the U.S., attracting just one-fifth of the buyers who
bought it at the peak of its appeal. At least one report holds that
Toyota will pull the Land Cruiser from the U.S. around 2023. Some in the industry even say it might
be time for the Land Cruiser to go. Thers say the vehicle could find success
again in this SUV crazed market. If Toyota strips it down and
returns it to its rugged roots. So what happened? Why? When trucks and SUVs are
seeing unprecedented levels of popularity in the United States, is the Land Cruiser
selling only a few thousand units? How did it go from being
a pivotal pioneer in Toyota’s international strategy to an
often overlooked product? Toyota’s truck heritage can be traced back
to its earliest days as a company. Toyota Motor was founded in the
late 1930s by a young businessman who wanted to diversify the fabric
weaving equipment business he had inherited from his father as a
way of protecting against the larger troubles in the textile industry. Seeing the potential in the
young but growing automotive industry; Kiichiro Toyoda studied the major carmakers of
his day, such as Ford and Chrysler, and had begun a
serious effort to make cars. However, his plans were interrupted by
Japan’s involvement in World War 2, and Toyota became a supplier of
military vehicles for the Japanese war effort. After the war ended, Toyota made
trucks and buses to help with Japan’s reconstruction. But there was a turning point in
the year 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea and Toyota received
an order from the U.S. armed forces in Japan
for four-wheel drive trucks. Korea was in fifty one, was really
hot and heavy combat in the UN forces were losing a
lot of vehicles over there. And in order to replenish them, they had
to bring them all the way from the United States for the Army was
anxious to get some vehicles built closer to the front. And obviously, Japan is a is a
puddle jump away from from Korea. So they presented these bid requests
to the manufacturers and Toyota said, yeah, okay, we’ll do it. So they built
a utility vehicle that was based on the army’s specifications. And obviously, here’s what we want. Here’s the Jeep. What we want. So Toyota put it together. And Toyota had also competed for a
bid to supply trucks to the Japanese national police forces. But initially lost that to Mitsubishi,
which offered a version of the legendary American Willys Jeep. But Toyota improved its own model, which
became known as the Toyota Jeep BJ The letters, BJ standing for B-series
engine and the J standing for Jeep. Toyota demonstrated the vehicle’s capability
by testing it on famed rugged journeys that had only ever been
made on horseback, such as by following the route of a legendary
samurai’s climb up Japan’s Mt. Otago and another climb up
a section of Mount Fuji. Improvements Toyota had been making to
its truck worked and the company won the police contract
away from Mitsubishi. In the meantime, Willies had trademarked
the Jeep name, forcing Toyota to abandon it. So in 1954, Toyota
chose a new name Landcruiser. That same year, it began exporting
its Land Cruiser to other markets, first to Pakistan, then
Saudi Arabia in 1955. In many cases, the Land Cruiser was
the first vehicle Toyota exported to other countries, as was the case
with several African nations such as Angola, Cameroon and South Africa in
the late 1950s and early 1960s. And they actually called it the
Land Cruiser strategy when entering other markets. It was essentially the vehicle that
they would bring in ahead of those passenger vehicles and those other
vehicles, because they knew that there was that reputation associated with
the Landcruiser, that if they could bring that in and so that
that the cars following behind it would also sell because they’re sitting there right
there on the lot next to a Land Cruiser. Land Cruiser is made up
nearly 40 percent of all vehicles exported from Japan in 1957. Toyota began selling the Land
Cruiser in the U.S. in 1958, that year it sold just one
unit of the vehicle, along with 287 units of Toyota’s sedan. The Tokyopet Crown, due to some
difficulties Toyota had with the Crown, the Land Cruiser ended up being the
only model the company sold in the U.S. from 1961 to 1965. The Land Cruiser would remain little changed
for the next two decades from the mid 1950s to the late 1970s. But over time, Toyota did update the
vehicle, steering its design toward a more premium product with a
more plush feature rich interior. It also grew bigger. Many of the changes coincided with
the first sport utility vehicle craze in the 1990s, when the SUV became
the new preferred family car and luxury SUVs such as the Lincoln Navigator,
the Cadillac Escalade and the Land Rover Range Rover were
rocketing upward in popularity. That was a peak for Land
Cruiser sales in the U.S. Even with the marketing
and the advertising. We’ve got an ad here in the museum
and it shows I think it says something like, if you want to be the CEO,
drive whatever, you want to be the chairman of the board. You drive a Land Cruiser, and that’s kind
of how it was was marketed, was you drive this as sort of a
status, but it doesn’t get any better. Correct. Toyota sold 18,602 Land Cruisers
in 1999, the largest number in records dating back to 1973. But in 2001, sales fell to 7,591. About half of what they had
been in the previous year. And they fell further from their. That same year, some trucks that
could be considered close competitors suffered dips in sales, too. But in the years that followed,
at least some of those rebounded. Land Rovers, Range Rover, for instance,
is priced comparably to the Land Cruiser and sales of that vehicle
climbed from 5,771 in 2001 to 8,549 in 2002, 12,086 in 2003, and 13,546 in 2004. Both high fuel prices and a recession would
put a damper on all new car sales in the later 2000s. But since the U.S. economy has recovered in
the wake of the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis, Americans have run back
to their sport, utilities and pickup trucks and snapped up
the increasingly popular crossover which blends elements of cars and trucks. Demand for high end sport utility vehicles
has grown along with the rest of the market. But Land
Cruiser sales have not rebounded. Part of the reason for this is
that the Land Cruiser has some steep competition. At the high end there’s there’s
more and more choices when it comes to SUVs. I mean, you could get
a Porsche SUV, you get a Tesla SUV. There’s more and more choices there. If you’re really looking for something that
had that kind of presence or are you looking for a certain brand? Take the Range Rover. Sales of that vehicle grew from 7,800
in 2012 to slightly more than 19,000 in 2018. That is compared with little more than
3000 Land Cruisers sold in the same year. There is also competition
from within Toyota’s own stable. Buyers who want the Toyota name can buy
a much cheaper three row SUV that isn’t meant to climb mountains. The automaker began marketing the similarly
sized Toyota Sequoia in 2000, selling 9,925 that year. Sales skyrocketed to more than
70000 units by 2002. However, sales of that model also fell
over time to just over 11000 in 2018. What we see with the Landcruiser is
it’s becoming more and more of a niche because if you want a three
row large SUV, these have really become cars, right? So because small as you
see, that started with Honda series and Toyota rapports, they’ve grown up
now there’s midsize ones, there’s three row SUV. So a vehicle like the Land Cruiser
has a smaller and smaller following because people don’t
need that capability. They don’t need to go up
a Rubicon or something like that. Toyota also sells another model that
is essentially a land cruiser with more premium features. The Lexus LX, that model sold
an additional 4,753 in 2018. You’re talking about an
85 thousand dollar vehicles. Vehicle starts at that price. You look, everything else in the market
that being sold is a luxury vehicle. So it if you look anywhere else,
it makes more sense as a Lexus. But to have Toyota selling a vehicle
that could be option up to 100 thousand dollars doesn’t really make
sense in today’s market. Another reason the Land Cruiser might be
struggling is simply that it has been more than a decade since Toyota
updated it with all the competition at the higher end of the market. Automakers are under tremendous pressure
to keep products fresh. What does it bring to the table? Compare that new competitive set that
it’s against like large flagship SUV is. And while that’s taking off right,
both from a luxury and a mainstream perspective, it’s one of the things where
they really if they want to keep alive, they have to redesign it because
everyone else, you know, like the flagship luxury cars now flagship luxury
SUV, and they’re just not competing in the same space because they’ve
gone on for so long about a redesign. Toyota also spends little, if
any, money marketing the Land Cruiser in the US. This, combined with its high price and
declining sales, have led some to argue that it is time to cut
the Land Cruiser entirely from Toyota’s U.S. lineup and leave only
its Lexus badged twin. At least one report has surfaced that
Toyota will do exactly that in 2023. Toyota told CNBC it had no comment
on plans for the Land Cruiser. But as it languishes in the U.S., the Land Cruiser name continues to
thrive elsewhere, especially in parts of the world where people
still need capable vehicles. The extent of the Land Cruiser is
global renown might seem surprising to Americans unfamiliar with
the vehicle’s history. Toyota sold 319,200 Land Cruisers around
the world in twenty eighteen. Its top five markets are Australia,
China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. In that order, Toyota
sold 42,300 Land Cruisers in Australia alone in 2018. The brand is so strong in some
parts of the world that customers in several countries can buy versions of
the truck Americans never see. For example, in many parts of the
world, it still sells the Land Cruiser 70 series. Toyota began making in
1984, though U.S. buyers can only purchase the
latest Land Cruiser model. Toyota sells the rugged, functional, far
lower priced 70s series alongside more current versions
in several markets. Of course, Toyota still does a
strong business in trucks and sport utilities. In the U.S., for example, the Toyota Tacoma is the
top seller in the midsize pickup category. The 4Runner, a smaller Off-Road
sport utility, still sells well in the U.S. Its sales have
grown from 44,316 in 2011 to 139,694 in 2018. And Toyota has expanded its Toyota
Racing Development sub brand, which has built its reputation on making
tough purpose built high performance Off-Road Vehicles. Landcruiser loyalists say a stripped
down, more affordable Land Cruiser would be a hit in the U.S. slightly more than a decade ago. The company brought the FJ cruiser to
market a purpose built sport utility with a boxy design that recalled
elements of the early FJ Landcruiser models. But the FJ cruiser was discontinued
in the United States and most other countries around the world living on
and only a select few markets. Americans who love the Land Cruiser legacy
and what the truck did for off-roading may have to settle for
another name while looking enviously at buyers elsewhere in the world where
its name is still well-known and cherished.

37 Comments

  • 5five6

    It may well be expensive but that’s due to its quality, technology and ability but it’s not much more than a fully loaded F350, and half the price of Land Rovers range of vehicles…

  • Sean Coyne

    They really went off market using the Land Cruiser name for a Range Rover type challenge. They should have just started a new premium 4WD line and made that the challenger. Here in Australia, the Land Cruiser was incredibly successful, ousting the Land Rover as a bush vehicle, mostly through reliability and more power. The only downside was rust, as the Land Rover bodies, being made of Duralumin, were largely impervious to it.

    Another factor in remote areas of Oz is that the early Land Rovers and Land Cruisers were easy to fix when you broke down a zillion miles from anywhere; your wallet and even your life can depend on that in the outback.

  • Rodolfo Alfaro Jr.

    The price of the land cruiser has nothing to do with it. Stop making every 4×4 SUV look exactly like its competitor. We have too many SUV on the road that literally look exactly the others. There's no individuality or sense of uniqueness. The reason the Jeep Wrangler sells like no tomorrow is because it offers what every luxury SUV on the market does plus its a 4×4 that looks completely different than anything else on the road. Return the land cruiser (and FJ) to it rugged utilitarian roots and toyota will see a resurgence in popularity.

  • conmanumber1

    Believe it or not the Landcruiser 70 series is the only vehicle that can servive the backcountry remote conditions here in New Zealand and Australia in the farming and mining industries.

  • cvcoco

    Toyota lost me the first time the price hit $60,000. NO WAY. I know its just me but i'd buy a brand new FJ if they just brought it back intact (but with 4-doors) and no frills or anything and a price to match. Metal dashboard, rubber mats, manual trans, etc.

  • SmoothbassmanStudios

    Toyota needs to get their act together. They are so dated. The technology in them is 10 years old. When I get in a Toyota I feel like I'm going back to the 90s. Not very appealing to me.

  • Natisha Kamara

    My First truck was a Toyota Land Cruiser. 😍 it. Wish I still had mine. Very strong and durable too. Under that hood I knew where every part. A ex crashed my ish

  • Promiscuous Crab

    Toyota doesn’t offer the land cruiser in a barebones, pure utility package in the US so potential buyers turn to the 4Runner, jeeps and trucks that can be had for less than half the price.
    The land cruiser is an incredible machine, but it’s current iteration in the US is so puffed and plush with luxury and tech that it’s only for those who want stealth wealth.

  • chad haire

    The Land Cruiser is NOT dying!! With the combined sales of the Lexus LX sales are still about 10,000 in USA which is still more than most flagship cars at $100K. Still more than Porsche 911 and BMW 7 series, and MB S Class. So shut the hell up..keep the Toyota!!

  • Driving Immersion

    This is totally misleading including the title. There is no defined plan to stop making the Land Cruiser. It is designed for a select few who require a vehicle like this. You don't see this cruising around to be shown off or used as a status symbol of wealth. In North America and other select regions, they are loaded with luxuries and are expensive. I didn't say "very expensive" because it is relative. In the middle east for example, they were until very recently, equipped with steel wheels and cloth interiors. Nevertheless, it is not a financial risk to Toyota in North America as only 5,000 are brought in per year. It has been that way since I started selling Toyotas in 2003. In fact it is a benefit to Toyota as it creates loyal buyers and meets their expectations. The only reason you may see "many" on the road or see a lot of media on the Land Cruiser is because they last a long time. In 1996, they were engineered as a million mile spec. Nobody does that! I will have one once my 2015 4Runner dies.

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