The unthinkable could happen soon: the Toyota Crown could abdicate.
Ascending to the throne in its place could be an SUV bearing the same name, according to a report from Japanese outlet Chunichi.
The Crown SUV could launch in 2022 and share its underpinnings with the upcoming fourth-generation Kluger.
Unlike the current Crown, which is sold only in the Japanese market, the new Crown SUV could be introduced to the USA and China.
Toyota’s SUV range in China currently tops out with the Prado and Highlander (Kluger); Toyota’s US arm doesn’t sell the Prado as a Toyota but does offer the LandCruiser 200 Series and Tundra-based Sequoia.
A crossover with premium aspirations but a Toyota badge could struggle in badge-conscious markets like the US, though, particularly if it abuts the Lexus RX in price.
Last year, Toyota sold 36,125 Crowns in the Japanese market, below the 4500 monthly target it set when it introduced the sleeker, sportier current model in 2018. Still, it’s been a fairly steady seller even in a market becoming increasingly averse to sedans.
It’s no longer a regular fixture in the top 10 best-seller list in Japan, however, but it vastly outsells rivals like the Nissan Fuga and Cima (Infiniti Q70) and Honda Legend – last year, for example, Nissan sold just 1068 examples of its ageing Fuga.
It offers a choice of turbocharged or hybrid four-cylinder engines, plus a V6 hybrid. The V8 disappeared with the 13th generation.
Though sedans are declining in market share in most global markets and long-lived sedan nameplates like the Chevrolet Impala and Lexus GS have been axed, the Crown seemed less likely to be deposed.
For one, the Crown name has been in continuous production since 1954 and though wagon, coupe and ute versions have come and gone, there’s always been a sedan.
Should the Crown evolve into an SUV, it won’t be the only nameplate to see such a transition. The next Ford Mondeo and Opel Insignia are also expected to become crossovers, while defunct passenger car nameplates have been reused for crossovers like the Ford Puma and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Though it hasn’t been offered in Australia since the end of the seventh generation in 1988, the Crown is an institution in the Japanese market.
It’s the second most prestigious sedan in Toyota’s range, sitting below the ultra-exclusive Century flagship. Lexus only entered the Japanese market in 2005, though its flagship LS was previously sold there as the Celsior albeit through different dealerships to the Crown.
Such has been the enduring dominance of the Crown that rival Japanese brands have exited the segment entirely. Mazda axed its Sentia (929) all the way back in 2000, while the Mitsubishi Proudia and Dignity – rebadged Infiniti Q70 models – were axed in 2016.
For the past few decades, the Crown has had virtually no presence outside Japan.
Chinese production began in 2005 but a version of the 15th generation wasn’t introduced there. Instead, the 14th generation wrapped up this year and will be replaced with the Avalon.