Since 1955, almost like clockwork, every four years or so Toyota has introduced a new Crown model. The current S220 version is the fifteenth generation of that line – with a new model due in 2022. Paul’s recent Crown vintage ad post made me remember a snippet of news I recently saw on several Japanese auto enthusiast websites – evidently rumors are filtering out of Toyota City that the company is considering replacing the Crown sedan with a similarly-named SUV model.
That would certainly be a watershed moment – the Crown is one of Toyota’s longest-serving car nameplates and with the exception of the limited production Century and pre-Lexus Celsior, has always sat at the top of the company’s sedan lineup. For over sixty years Japan’s hard-working salarymen have dreamed of having a Crown in their driveway…a symbol that they’ve “made it”.
Japanese consumers still like their sedans, but as with trends elsewhere, have expressed an increased preference for CUVs/SUVs/MPVs over the past decade. You may have seen the company recently launched the Corolla Cross here in Asia that slots between the RAV4 and the C-HR, and will be coming to North America as a 2022 model.
Somewhat fueling these rumors was the introduction of the Highlander-based “Crown Kluger” for the Chinese market in April. But that just may be Toyota and their local partner opting to leverage a known name that has brand-cache with Chinese consumers.
My own take is that these rumors are likely false. Lexus already has the luxury SUV market fairly well covered for the company and the Crown sedan is an icon here in Asia; from taxi cabs to executive shuttle. But on the other hand, ten years ago I would have bet money that Lincoln would never be a SUV-only brand…
These days, anything is possible…
Some other rumours are saying that Toyota might be sharing the new RWD platform and straight-6 engines of the next-gen Mazda 6 that’s currently being developed and is bound to be released late 2021 or early 2022.
It’s been speculated that Toyota might use the Mazda-developed tech to underpin the next Crown saloon and some future Lexuses as well as a Mark X replacement. It will be interesting too see if any of that will become reality or not
Another thing I’m wondering about is the ever-increasing popularity of the crossover / SUV. When will that trend stop (I’m sure it will stop as all trends always do, sooner or later) and what will happen then. Will the industry revert back to the hatchback and saloon or will it get replaced by something completely different?
In Europe in the 70nties the whole industry was going hatchback and dropping the saloon body style, some thought that the saloon would soon be dead and buried. That trend seemed irreversible up until about 1980-1981 when the saloon suddenly started making a comeback and eventually kinda established its place alongside the hatchback / liftback, especially when it comes to larger cars (D-segment, but also C-segment). The B2 Passat family gained a new sedan-bodied member, PSA introduced a sedan-bodied Solara to accompany the Talbot 1510, Renault replaced the hatchback-only R14 with R9/R11 etc… Later in the 80s and 90n some D-segment cars dropped their hatchback versions and went back to being saloon (and station wagon) only (VW Passat, Saab 9000 / 9-5, Lancia Gamma / Thema, Ford Scorpio etc)
Same thing with minivans / people carriers / MPV-s. For a while in the late 90s / early 2000s everything seemed to be going MPV but that trend slowed down around 2005 and reversed after 2010, by now most European brands have replaced their MPV-s with CUV-s and the former has become a rare sight in the new car showrooms.
When it comes to small SUV-s then a lot of the original ones from the 90s were rugged in their appearance and had some real 4WD capabilities, whereas a lot of the modern day small crossovers are not much more that just lifted hatchbacks with bigger wheels. I think that a part of the reason why they sell well is simply that crossovers are perceived by many as fresh and modern whereas hatchbacks and station wagons are perceived as old and outdated.
I wonder what will be the trend / body style that will step in to kill the crossovers? Some sort of a self-driving bus-like monovolume commuter pod / lounge-on-wheels – electric, emotionless and super efficient?
I wonder if electric cars will eventually redefine the current version of the CUV, in the interest of optimized weight/frontal area and volume for batteries and occupants. I suspect that will converge on shapes like the Prius or CMax; even the Model Y seems cut from that cloth. Roomier and more utilitarian, dare I use that term, shapes like the Highlander or Model X may revert to being considered specialized vehicles. But who can predict trends?
I think that a part of the reason why they sell well is simply that crossovers are perceived by many as fresh and modern whereas hatchbacks and station wagons are perceived as old and outdated.
Although some high end luxury/performance sedans will likely stay around (Tesla S, Mercedes S, etc.) I don’t think the traditional low sedan and wagon are ever coming back in big numbers for the volume market. Taller cars are easier to get in and out of, and their interior volume is significantly greater.
Regardless of whether they’re “SUVs” or MPVs, or whatever you want to call them, tall cars are here to stay, because of significantly better packaging. Who wants to crawl inside a low and compact sedan/wagon after you’ve been spoiled by a tall and roomy car? A few, yes, but not enough.
The Corolla Cross is a harbinger of what’s to come. I would expect it to become the top volume seller in the Corolla line within a fairly short time period.
tall cars are here to stay, because of significantly better packaging. Who wants to crawl inside a low and compact sedan/wagon after you’ve been spoiled by a tall and roomy car?
I agree with Paul here. My thinking is that as Babyboomers get really old and decrepit (and I predate them by a couple of years) they will want a way of getting a vehicle which looks hip but accomodates a hip replacement. I have in mind a couple of suggestions (not that GM has asked me):
First, a modernized package based on the Checker cab. High roof/doors. Back seat waay back and instead of hard to get into rear occasional seats, just use jump seats IN FRONT of the rear seats. I think Cadillac (or one of the companies) should look back to WWII with the “heavy sedan”. At the time these were stripped down “Woody” station wagons fortified for heavy duty. My thinking is that a steel body could be built much as a wood one, that is, without need for expensive dies, just jigs. Since this kind of vehicle could be used for police and other heavy duty, if could garner some “street cred” and cross over to the civilian market. But what do I know; I drive a fuddy duddy Ford Transit Connect.
How is something like a Honda CRV not a raised station wagon? What about the Subaru Outback? I know they are considered “Crossovers”. The are certainly NOT SUV’s. To me, anything that is unibody, has a hatch in the back, and a side window BEHIND the rear doors, is really a station wagon. You can call it whatever you want. If it doesn’t have the third side window, it’s a hatchback (Kia Seltos). And I think that to be called a Crossover, it needs AWD. The Nissan Kicks, with FWD is not a Crossover. What is it crossing over between??? I believe a Crossover is half way between a station wagon and a truck based, body on frame SUV. Kicks, Seltos etc are just hatchbacks. Nothing wrong with that. Just call it what it is. Does anyone disagree with me?
Because the CRV is a CUV, very obviously. Meaning, if anything, it’s a raised and bigger hatchback, in terms of its proportions. A true station wagon has a relatively long rear end, comparable to a sedan with a trunk.The CRV has classic CUV proportions, although ultimately there’s no iron-clad definition. If it looks like a CUV and quacks like one…
The Outback started out as a wagon once upon a time. But if you really take in the height and proportions, it’s become more CUV than wagon. But feel free to differ…
The term “SUV” is used in the industry broadly, and includes CUVs. It’s a defined category that are light trucks (not passenger cars), but not pickups. By industry definition, an SUV is anything from a CRV to a Suburban, and then some.
But feel free to use whatever terms you want. It’s not a debate I’m very interested in.
So a Jeep XJ Cherokee wasn’t an SUV because it was a unibody and has a side window behind the back doors? Do serious off-road chops not count for anything?
Yeah, crossover is a bit ambiguous term and I cant really come up with an exact definition from the top of my head. But pinning it down a little might help to understand and explain the phenomenon a bit better.
Being from Europe the case of SUVs is better explained using smaller or medium-sized vehicles as examples as we don’t have Suburbans or Explorers around.
The first wave of SUVs from the early 90s were basically civilized versions of rugged offroaders. They were still very capable offroaders and they didn’t ride as well on the highway as saloons and hatchbacks did, but the had levels of equipment and comfort that were comparable to normal cars and most people who bought them would use them as cars, not as offroaders. Think Suzuki Vitara, Kia Sportage, Jeep XJ and ZJ, Opel Frontera / Isuzu MU, Nissan Terrano II / Ford Maverick (WD21) etc
The second generation from late nineties was much more car-like. Instead of “serious” 4WD systems these had AWD systems with viscous couplers and suchlike, designed for better roadholding traction rather than offroad use. In appearance they were still tall and boxy and mimicked the shape of true offroaders, some of them would for example have spare wheels attached to the outside of the tailgate. Think LR Freelander I, Ford Maverick / Escape / Mazda Tribute, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CRV (first 2 generations)
The next generation from the mid-late 2000s was even more watered down, the AWD systems were becoming optional as some were now available in FWD versions. The boxy shapes were disappearing, they were becoming smooth and rounded instead. Think Nissan Juke, Nissan Qashkai / Dualis / Rogue, Mazda CX-7, Mazda CX-5
This is how the process went: First the manufacturers hit gold in the 90s by turning the rugged offroader into something trendy and then they started removing elements that the buyers of these cars did not actually need. Out went the 4WD and later even the AWD, the ladder frames, high-profile offroad tires etc. And what was eventually left of the original concept were bigger wheels (but skinny low-profile tires), more pronounced wheel arches, bits of plastic cladding here and there, taller bodies, higher seating positions and (slightly) larger ground clearance.
The crossover as we know it was born when the manufacturers started applying those elements to other types of cars. The modern crossover, in my mind follows one of the these formulas:
– Hatchback + SUV elements
(Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Venue, Chevrolet Trax / Opel Mokka, MB GLA, Audi Q2, Audi Q3, DS 3 Crossback, Toyota C-HR etc, etc, etc, etc…)
– Station wagon + SUV elements
(Peugeot 5008, Citroen C5 X, the latest Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV)
– MPV + SUV elements
(Renault Espace V, Opel Crossland)
– 4-door coupe + SUV elements
(Renault Arkana, MB GLC Coupe, BMW X4, Lamborghini Urus)
So basically, a crossover is anything with a touch of SUV slapped onto it!
Therefore I feel that the modern (European) crossover is just a thinly disguised hatchback, wagon or MPV, and not much more. It doesn’t even need to have a taller body shape / higher seating position! Just look at the new Citroen C4, the C5 X or the DS 4 for example! I think that after a couple of years the manufacturers could just quietly remove the big wheels and lower the suspensions a bit and the consumers would be back in their hatchbacks without even noticing it!
P.S. There have been other kinds of crossover formulas in the past as well, and it seems that the SUV ingredient is required for the formula to be commercially successful. Some of those alternative (and mostly failed) formulas include:
– Station wagon + MPV (Subaru Exiga)
– LWB executive saloon + Hatchback (Opel Signum)
– Executive saloon + MPV (Fiat Croma II, Renault Vel Satis)
– Coupe + MPV (Renault Avantime)
These were not described as crossovers when they came out as the term did not exist, but some of these would be described as such if they would be introduced in 2021.
P.P.S. Another formula that enjoyed a bit of success back in the day was “hatchback + MPV” (Honda Civic 5d (2001), Nissan Tiida, Peugeot 3008 (2008), VW Golf Plus) but these have all been replaced with the “hatchback + SUV” breed by now.
This was supposed to be a quick comment, wrote waaaaay more than I was planning to… Sorry bout dat!
The FAW-Toyota Crown Kluger exists solely as the FAW-Toyota equivalent of the GAC-Toyota Highlander. The Toyota Crown Vellfire import (rebadged JDM Vellfire) at FAW-Toyota dealers exists to oppose the twin Alphard at GAC-Toyota. Where companies have two local joint ventures, it’s become common for them to have parallel lineups and we see this at a few brands. Honda’s mirrored lineups are Fit/Life, Crider/Envix, CR-V/Breeze, UR-V/Avancier, XR-V/Vezel, Odyssey/Elysion, Accord/Inspire, Ciimo X-NV/M-NV/Everus VE-1, and soon Civic/Integra based on reports. Toyota has Yaris L/Vios, Corolla/Levin, Allion/Levin GT, C-HR/Izoa, RAV4/Wildlander, Crown Kluger/Highland, Alphard/Crown Vellfire, and the Camry and Avalon semi-opposing each other. VW has a whole mass of competing models between ventures.
FAW-Toyota, which used to produce the Crown, is leveraging the long-running and well-regarded Crown nameplate for their upscale models (and as all these Japanese brands do in China, using international or dead nameplates on them too). They don’t produce the latest Crown sedan because they aren’t tooled up to produce its specific FR version of the platform/structure, instead cheaping out with the FF Avalon that’s been a big success. The old Crown had overlapped for a while until emissions regulations were tightened.
There’s still unsubstantiated chatter milling around the JDM press about a Japanese market ‘Crown Cross’ alongside other rumours that there will indeed be a next-gen Crown sedan. The Crown is consistently one of the top 3 best-selling sedans in Japan, so it wouldn’t make a ton of sense to bin it yet, though stranger things have happened recently. In the past, the Infiniti EX was sold in Japan as the Nissan Skyline Crossover so anything is possible. Speaking of which, reports also state the Nissan Skyline, Cima and Fuga sedans (Infiniti Q50, Q70 and Q70L/Q80 elsewhere) won’t be replaced in Japan, with the long-running Skyline name likely moving to a premium crossover.
This is a similar level of singular ‘mysterious source’ to that who was behind the Crown Cross rumour, so we shall see. The Crown sedan being axed by this year without updates to be replaced with a Crown SUV based on the Highlander came from a single random/obscure media outlet source in Japan last year and spread everywhere as if true (every article including Wikipedia always eventually went back to the same source) – we can assume whoever it was had wires crossed since the Crown sedan was since recently updated and is still very much on offer, while a Highlander-based Crown SUV has arrived in China. A lot of these rumours in Japan are also simply relentless ridiculous wishful thinking without merit. For example, one publication spent years adamant a production version of the Toyota TJ Cruiser crossover-mpv thing was coming in 2019, then 2020, despite constant denial from Toyota, only for it to of course not arrive at all and to never have even existed, and for them to issue an apology.
+1 on this. If anything, “Crown” is just becoming a Toyota sub-brand to be applied to multiple vehicles in China, not unlike Denali to GMC models in the US.
Exactly. This made the rounds as far back as when Japanese Nostalgic Car reported it in mid-April. It was debunked, if that’s the right term, there and then.
I’ll add my comment from there; As a preview of the midcycle refresh for the Highlander I don’t hate it. Turning the grille frown upside down is a surprisingly big improvement. Better than the steps up the pyramid that made the facelift version of the previous Highlander look like a lost mid-’00s Ford.
I don’t like the bulbous protrusions on the sides of the new Highlander and Sienna. It looks like the car version of a muffin top.
It is kind of sad to see Toyota uses this cheap trick to let the aging prestigious name Crown a last attempt survive in China. We have seen Lincoln applied this trick on its Town Car few years ago. Crown was used to be the vehicle of choice for the party elite, foreign business men 40 years when China started opening up despite the high import tax. As the economy progresses, Chinese have started to acquire the taste of high end German Audi, Benz and BMW, aka ABB in Chinese term. Toyota just failed to make its Crown relevant in the luxury car market while the German pushed forward around globe to sell its luxury vehicle by slightly down market of its products. Now even in US, Japanese luxury bands struggle while German cars surge.
I think y’all are way off base in terms of what comes next. The self-driving vehicle is next, and it will render all owner-driven cars, trucks, and CUV’s obsolete. Who cares about vehicle dynamics and performance when a computer is doing the driving? No one. It will be more akin to being chauffeured around than driving.
When that time comes, what will people want in a vehicle? Comfort and isolation. They’ll want to ride around as comfy as if they’re on their own couch or recliner at home, so plush interiors will be “in.” They’ll want to be isolated from the ugliness of the outside world, so there will be lots of wood — or maybe even fake wood — in the interior to look at, and possibly lots of little insignificant decorative details as well. They’ll want to shut out the intrusive sounds of the rioting and looting around them, so they’ll want lots of sound deadening. And they’ll want a suspension with soft springs and lots of travel to absorb the ruts and potholes of a rapidly deteriorating road system.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read it here first — the Personal Luxury Car is back!
“And they’ll want a suspension with soft springs and lots of travel to absorb the ruts and potholes of a rapidly deteriorating road system.”
Sounds like they want a CUV.