Toyota Crown hybrid SUV to slot above the Venza/Harrier [Update]

Japanese media outlets report that an all-new Toyota Crown is in the pipeline, and the next-gen model will take the shape of an SUV. The brand and price positioning of the Toyota Crown SUV would stand above the Toyota Venza (marketed as the Toyota Harrier to JDM), which is the most upscale monocoque SUV in Toyota’s home country.

TMC is all for leveraging the Crown nameplate’s popularity but feels the need to respond to the changing customer preference of SUVs over sedans. In December 2020, Japanese publication Chunichi Shimbun, based in Aichi Prefecture, where Toyota is headquartered and manufactures the Crown, reported that the company would discontinue the luxury sedan. Hence the Crown SUV would serve as the sedan’s replacement in 2022, it said.

Toyota Harrier
The Toyota Crown SUV would slot above the Toyota Venza/Toyota Harrier in Japan (pictured) as the brand’s posh monocoque utility vehicle. Image: Toyota

The speculations about the next-gen Toyota Crown have been raging since the regional newspaper’s report went online. Japan’s popular scoop magazine Best Car quickly rigged up a Toyota Crown SUV rendering to make things more interesting. We would love to see a rear-wheel-drive luxury SUV from Toyota making it to U.S. showrooms where it could fit customers who can’t afford or want a Lexus SUV.

As the longest-running model in Toyota’s history, the Crown is an automotive legend in Japan. It has been in continuous production since its introduction in 1955. Toyota introduced the current, fifteenth-gen Crown in (June) 2018. It will be putting it out of production unusually early into the lifecycle in 2022 if the report turns out to be true.

Toyota converted two of its global nameplates, the Corolla and Yaris, into crossover variants last year. It wouldn’t surprise if other four-door cars (regional and international) transition during the model cycle to take the form of crossovers in this decade as demand for this body type shows no signs of slowing.

Toyota Crown SUV specifications & release date

One would expect a Toyota Crown SUV to have an RWD drivetrain layout and, like the Crown sedan, feature Toyota’s hybrid drive. However, a new Best Car report suggests that the company plans to launch an all-new, FWD Crown sedan based on the GA-K version of the TNGA platform and offer an SUV version of it called ‘Crown Cross.’ The Toyota Crown SUV could be an FWD model, and its launch would not lead to the discontinuation of the Crown sedan, unlike what reports suggested earlier.

The new report continues that the Toyota Crown Cross SUV, the first Toyota Crown SUV outside China, was going to premiere as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show this fall. With the event no longer on the calendar, Toyota has postponed its debut. The company plans to unveil the Crown Cross SUV now in June 2022. The production version will get the same powertrain as the next-gen Alphard, which Toyota is developing alongside it, the report concludes.

The dip of the Crown

The Crown, a legacy nameplate of Toyota, has mostly succumbed to the diminishing popularity of sedans. In January 2021, the company was able to sell only 2,146 units of the flagship sedan in Japan, as per a previous article from Best Car. Its rank among all the cars sold in Japan was 27 at that time.

In 1990, Toyota was able to sell about 205,000 units (17,000 units/month) of the Crown. Then, Japanese customers began liking minivans, and in 2000, the annual sales fell to about 101,000 units (8,400 units/month). In the next ten years, the annual sales had halved again. In 2010, Toyota dealers sold about 41,000 units. In 2019, the annual sales had dropped to approximately 36,000 units.

Today, the Crown faces stiff competition from executive minivans that allow sort of a mobile office set-up and SUVs that are more practical and used for adventure trips. The survival of the Crown is on the line, and with their backs against the wall, Toyota must respond strongly and quickly if the nameplate has any chance of a turnaround.

Featured image: BestCar Magazine