Toyota is confident the LandCruiser badge would be strong enough to flourish without a diesel V8 should it meet its end, despite the outgoing 200 Series selling for prices well and truly above recommended retail.
Driven by rampant demand for big, tough four-wheel drives that can tow a caravan – in lieu of international travel, which remains off the radar due to COVID-19 – the 14-year old 200 Series continues to defy all sales expectations.
A quick look at the classifieds reveals some 200 Series LandCruiser Saharas are listed for $180,000-plus (dealer and private), more than 30 per cent above the maximum recommended drive-away price of about $136,000 on Toyota’s website.
Despite these evident mark-ups, LandCruiser wagon sales (including 70- and 200 Series, but overwhelmingly the latter) are up 60 per cent this year to a tick over 5000 units.
Generally vehicles get cheaper as they age, but the cost of LandCruisers is higher than ever. One obvious reason for this is rampant demand, but there’s also another factor – the engine.
While not confirmed, it’s expected that the 300 Series will debut this year with a downsized lower-CO2 engine, probably not a V8 diesel like the 200 Series.
Speculation suggests a 3.3-litre six-cylinder diesel, or even a four. Cue alarm from traditionalists. There’ll also be a hybrid at some point over the lifecycle.
Toyota Australia vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley this week said there was “no update” to give on the 300 Series.
“LandCruiser 200 is selling its head off though, I can tell you that! They’re in hot demand, there’s no doubt, and that’s largely being driven by domestic travel,” he said.
On the topic of remaining supply, Mr Hanley conceded some variants were getting hard to find, but expected sales to keep ticking over.
“The numbers are speaking for themselves. There’s been a lot of speculation about LandCruiser 200 running out. But every month I look at the VFACTS and it’s doing pretty well. There’s still availability of LandCruiser 200 out there.”
When the topic of potential price gouging was raised, Mr Hanley said Toyota’s franchise dealers were “free agents” capitalising on supply versus demand.
“The dealers are dealing in a competitive market, the most competitive in the world. They’re franchises and free agents, and the market will determine what the market will pay ultimately for a car,” he contended.
We would counter this by saying the V8 diesel 200 Series is a car with very few genuine competitors, and its main rival – Nissan’s excellent V8 petrol Patrol – is hobbled by stock shortfalls.
On the topic of the V8 potentially being retired for the 300 Series, Mr Hanley suggested Australians would embrace any LandCruiser so long as it could do the tasks required.
“Look, I always think back to history a bit when I answer this question,” he told us.
“I remember when Toyota brought four-cylinders to market. I remember when we tried to sell four-cylinder Camrys up front.
“I distinctly remember and I could be wrong – correct me if I am – but I remember people saying ‘there’s no way Australians are going to go to a front-wheel, four-cylinder after driving a rear-wheel drive V8. Not going to happen.
“It’s not a criticism or disrespect to that time. I remember that time. But of course here we are and people did gravitate to four cylinders, actually, people did gravitate to these front-wheel drive cars.
“And I liken that to V8 to six-cylinder, petrol or diesel, whatever it might be in the future. As long as the vehicle is capable, Australians will change. But they won’t compromise on performance, or capability.
“It’s not a case of whether we can talk anyone around to it. It’s a case of the product being able to do the things that they want it to do.
“And if it can do the things they want it to do, and maybe even exceed sometimes the things they want to do, then it’s not a case of good marketing. It’s a case of product being able to do the things the consumer wants it to do.
“And Toyota has done that pretty well for a long time in this market, through our broad product offering.”