Toyota Grand Highlander could be the three-row SUV rolling out of Princeton plant

A Toyota Grand Highlander SUV for the U.S. could be in the making, possibly with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Toyota Motor applied to register a Grand Highlander trademark at the USPTO on December 28, 2020. OEMs usually practice protecting names and suffixes even if there is no intent to use them as a vehicle nameplate. However, there’s some evidence to support the speculation.

Toyota announces new electrified three-row SUV for the Indiana manufacturing plant

Toyota Motor has revealed that it plans to manufacture two all-new, three-row electrified SUVs, one with a Toyota badge and a Lexus emblem, at its Princeton plant in Indiana (USA). The company has announced an $803 million investment and 1,400 new jobs at the American car factory to make the two unnamed large SUVs. It has designed the three-row SUVs keeping “the Gen Y American Family” in mind. The Lexus model could be the rumored Lexus TX, a replacement for the Lexus RX L.

“The two new products we’re going to introduce, the one Toyota product and the one Lexus product, will be electrified vehicles,” said Tim Hollander, VP – Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana. This strengthens speculations that a hybrid variant of the rumored Toyota Grand Highlander is planned, and it could be powered by a self-charging hybrid system or a plug-in hybrid system.

Toyota says that the all-new three-row SUVs will accommodate up to eight people and offer hands-free semi-autonomous driving in certain conditions.

When on sale, customers can expect a semi-automated driving system—which will allow for hands-free driving in certain conditions—a remote parking system allowing the driver to park and unpark from outside the vehicle using a smartphone, and a digital key that turns a user’s smartphone into their key and allows them to share it digitally. Both the Lexus and Toyota versions will offer seating for up to eight passengers.

Toyota Motor, on April 28, 2021

Toyota Grand Highlander trademark application

In January, TopElectricSUV.com accessed the Toyota Grand Highlander trademark application (app. no. 90420634) and reported that it is meant for the obvious category. The trademark application mentioned ’12’ as the international class, which is for automobiles and structural parts thereof. The intent to commercialize the trademark had also been stated. Interestingly, there was a note of Toyota owning the existing ‘Highlander’ trademark (reg. no. 2249838) to avoid the proposed trademark being viewed as a duplicate by the authorities.

Positioning

The Toyota Highlander offers three rows of seats for up to eight passengers. So, it’s not as if the Toyota Grand Highlander has to be the derivative that accommodates extra passengers.

Regardless of whether China needs a Toyota Grand Highlander, the U.S. probably does. The old body-on-frame Toyota Sequoia (made at the Indiana facility) is not an attractive option in 2021 for American customers seeking a modern SUV bigger than the Toyota Highlander with better towing and cargo capability. That’s where the Toyota Grand Highlander could step in. The proposed size, load, and the times the Toyota Grand Highlander takes birth in demand electrification.

2021 Toyota Highlander rear quarters
The 2021 Toyota Highlander is 194.9/197.4 in. long, 76.0 in. wide, and 68.1 in. tall. It has a 112.2 in. wheelbase, and its cargo volume is 84.3 cu. ft. The Grand Highlander with bigger dimensions would be a mammoth of an SUV. Image: Toyota

Competitors & Release Date

The Toyota Grand Highlander would compete with the Hyundai Palisade, Ford Explorer, and Kia Telluride. Toyota would need to develop the Grand Highlander such that it can one-up the competitors.

The Kia Telluride is enjoying unprecedented popularity in the U.S. market, allowing dealers to markup the price by a crazy USD 15,000-18,000 as per web reports (and via Reddit). Last year, with an annual sales of 75,129 units, the South Korean mid-size SUV was Kia’s third highest-selling model in the U.S. It retained the podium spot during the January-April 2021 period, registering 30,049 units. Kia ramped up the SUV’s annual production capacity to 100,000 units last year. James Bell, the Head of Public Relations at the company’s U.S. subsidiary, told The Car Connection that the supply “is going to be tight even at 100,000.”

While Toyota has not given guidance on the release date of its upcoming hybrid SUV, Hollander said the process of getting the new car into production would take a couple of years:

It is a very intense challenge, there will be major retooling throughout the entire operation, and we’ll have a close collaboration and partnership with our equipment manufacturers, our regional production engineering team and our team here, our engineering and maintenance team, and production team here to really bring this thing to life. It will take a couple of years to really get everything ready to go for the development of this product. It’s a huge undertaking and we’ll be spending a lot of weekends and shutdown time really getting the plant ready.

Tim Hollander, VP – Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing

Further information like the specifications and price of the Toyota Grand Highlander is unavailable at this time. We expect to learn more about the model during the second half of the year. The Grand Highlander could become the Toyota Grand Kluger for Australia, where the regular version goes on sale next month with the newest updates. In New Zealand, Toyota could launch the large SUV with the original name.

Featured image: Toyota