The failure of the Crown in the US market has been hard for many to grasp. If the Corona and Corolla and all the other Toyotas were so red hot in the US, why was the Crown such a flop? And it’s not just that the S60 had a weird front end, although that undoubtedly pushed it over the edge and Toyota cancelled it in the US after just two years.
The reasons are elucidated in this review. R&T did not pull their punches either; they panned it. It was inferior in just about every respect compared to say a Chevy Nova. And quite so in some.
The problem was that although the Crown felt very “American” it wasn’t designed for the US. It was a big, prestigious sedan in Japan, despite its severe dynamic limitations. That didn’t matter there. Toyota eventually figured it all out, with ever better Cressidas that paved the way for the category-killer Lexus LS. But that was still a way off in the future. In 1972, Toyota would just have to put up with a rare black eye.
The obvious problem is that the Crown was being compared to comparable sized American compact cars, which obviously offered more of just about everything for the money. That was essentially the inverse of the situation with the really smaller cars, where Toyota offered more of everything. And most of all, a well built small car. But in 1972, the quality issues of medium-large American cars wasn’t yet in full bloom, so that alone wasn’t going to tip the scales in favor of the Crown. And it just wasn’t competitive against the European imports, such as the Volvo, which were fetching higher prices too.
There was some speculation that Toyota only sold the Crown here for their executives to drive. But that doesn’t hold up. The previous generation (S50) actually sold in modest but steady numbers. And it was the dealers that wanted the Crown, so they could have something to sell to existing Toyota owners when they were ready for something bigger and nicer. And that really was the Crown’s mission, and not to win new converts. There were a lot of early adopter Toyota owners on the West Coast and in other early Toyota hot beds that fell into that category, and these were its loyal buyers. They just had to move into the new six cylinder Mark II now, instead of the Crown. And that begat the Cressida. And that begat the Lexus. Toyota takes its time, sometimes.