The Toyota FJ Cruiser may be approaching the end of the line in the United States, but the future of the cult vehicle is safe in Australia for the next few years at least.
As reported, Toyota USA announced in November last year that the retro off-roader would get the chop from 2014 in that market.
The announcement of the end of production in the States led to the inevitable question of whether the FJ Cruiser was not long for this world in the Australian market. “Absolutely not,” answered Toyota Australia’s Steve Coughlan when asked if the death knell had sounded for the FJ in Australia.
“Production ending for the US market has never been an issue for us in Australia,” he said. “We launched at a later point than they did for starters in March 2011.” FJ Cruiser has been on sale in the States since 2006.
Pressed further, Coughlan explained that the Australian market, which sources vehicles from Japan, has always been slightly different to the US market.
“Our FJ Cruiser has been upgraded with a reverse camera, satellite navigation and display audio,” he said. “Our planning can be viewed in isolation to the United States. The RHD market around the world provides enough volume to maintain the model.”
The FJ Cruiser has in fact been a real success story for Toyota in Australia, succeeding even their internal expectations for the model.
“It has sold in higher volume than we expected initially,” Coughlan said. “The car will continue in the proper off road space in Australia — there is absolutely no risk of that not happening over the next few years.”
Coughlan did say that recently momentum has slowed a little — sales are down 31 per cent this year so far at 1042 units. In an attempt to address this, Toyota took Australian media to an FJ Summit in the United States to reinforce the message that the car is going nowhere for our market.
As you’ll see in our upcoming FJ Summit report, we spent some time driving the special edition ‘Trail Teams Ultimate’ FJ Cruiser, which is the model’s last hurrah. Only 2500 have been built for sale.
“We didn’t want people to automatically think that just because production finished up the in the States that the FJ was going to cease in Australia,” he said.
For the foreseeable future, the FJ Cruiser will continue as is, although there will be minor changes coming. “There’ll be a small revision to the colour palette later in the year,” Coughlan said.
Despite initial concerns about the lack of a diesel engine option — a 4.0-litre petrol six is the only option — Toyota Australia has sold more than 8500 FJ Cruisers since 2011.
Having seen so many modified and off-road capable FJ Cruisers in the Colorado mountains over the past few days, we asked Coughlan whether there was any chance we would see some of the serious TRD performance products available for FJ Cruiser in Australia anytime soon.
“The TRD guys in the States would love to see us do some stuff with TRD product in Australia,” he said. “A lot of the product they offer is what we refer to as ‘run/stop/turn’ though and this presents challenges.”
Coughlan went on to explain that there is a large team that works on TRD product and importantly, secondary certification for the parts once they are designed.
“For us to pick up the parts from the USA to fit to our FJs that are built in Japan, we’d need to set up secondary certification,” Coughlan said. “Changing things like ride height, wheel track, wheels and tyres, engine components and exhaust, is a difficult issue in Australian with our ADRs.”
Coughlan was also keen to remind CarAdvice readers that the FJ Cruiser is a real off road halo model for the Japanese brand. “It’s inspired a cult following, and it has been comprehensively engineered to do everything a proper, rugged off road vehicle can do,” he said.
It seems we’ll be able to sample some of that off road ability in Australia for a few more years yet.