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How A Full-Size SUV Facing Declining Sales Is Looking To Reinvent Itself

Brian Champagne

Ford’s full-size SUV sales are a third of what they were in the late 90s. For GM, they’re half that. Another brand’s big off-roader is facing the same decline but may be reinventing itself.

Need to carry five people and a lot of stuff across the worst terrain possible? Not snowy interstates and rutted roads; stuff like rocky roads, mud, river beds and super steep gravel hills.

 

You’re hearing the Land Cruiser Toyota loaned us clawing its way up a gravel hill that wannabes end up sliding down backwards. It does the gas pedal for you going up and the braking coming back down because your human foot would make it slip and slide.

 

Fourteen miles per gallon combined fuel economy? Not a problem if you can afford the $90,000 our loaner lists for.

 

And yet this monster, a real truck-based SUV that has power taligates, a third on the lower and another from above, is Toyota’s second-worst seller, behind the 86, a real driver’s small sports car.

 

It hasn’t had a major change since 2007, which is 85 in human years. I just made that human number up, but this worldwide iconic vehicle that started off as a rip-off of a Jeep is at the end of its cycle.

 

A few months ago, “Road and Track” magazine reported that this is the last year for the Land Cruiser in the states. There are rumors of a replacement, and in April Toyota announced they’ll build a new three-row electrified SUV in Indiana. Electrified could mean anything from gas-hybrid to hydrogen to all batteries. 

 

Here’s Leah Curry, President of Toyota Manufacturing Indiana.

 

“They’re basically a true third row which means they’re perfect for the Gen-Y adventurous families out there,” Cury said. 

 

I’m speculating that those adventures won’t include driving up hills those families couldn’t walk up, but saying the new Toyota couldn’t would be starting a rumor.

Brian Champagne grew up in the less-famous Central California but left after starting his television news career there. He worked 22 years in news for NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in four markets. He served as chief photographer for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, but worked in front of the camera, too.