Toyota’s big Crown sedan has been kept from Australian roads for decades. Some seven generations of Japan’s longest-running passenger car have never seen this land, meaning an entire generation of Australians have never laid eyes on a brand-new example.
The Crown has an Australian story of its own, having been assembled here in days of old, but this market’s current aversion to large sedans looks likely to ensure the upcoming 15th-generation model will be the latest to steer clear.
Indeed, the Crown has been something of a homebody for many years now, built almost entirely for its own market to sit one step below the Lexus brand – which has only been available in Japan since 2005, having previously been focused on western markets.
At a presentation in Tokyo this week, a Toyota executive even described Lexus – through a translator – as a “full-course dinner”, while the Crown is “Japanese cuisine”. The analogy may have been lost in translation, but its intention is clear: Lexus was developed for western tastes (even if some have been tweaked Toyotas), but the Crown of today is not for everyone.
Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s incoming Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, told CarAdvice in Japan today that while the Crown would never be entirely ruled out for a return, it is not currently in the stars.
“In our market, we’re seeing a growth in… the number one selling car is HiLux, [and] the trend even in that segment is to go to the higher end. There is of course also massive growth in the SUV market. We’re seeing movement away from passenger cars in general, although still of course represent a significant portion [of sales],” Hanley said.
“So we’ll continue to study the potential for big sedans, but no plans as yet.”
The new model – shown earlier this month as a thinly-veiled concept – will retain its rear-wheel-drive design, riding on the GA-L variant of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that debuted beneath the new Lexus LC coupe and LS limousine.
Toyota showed footage of a camouflaged 2018 model tearing around the Nurburgring, promising the new Crown will be the most dynamic and fun-to-drive generation yet.
It will also come loaded with the latest in Toyota’s vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems, prepared for Japan’s continued rollout of technologies that will enable each car to alert every other of traffic congestion or dangers on the road ahead.
In Australia, Toyota will launch its new 2018 Camry next month. Now its local manufacturing program has ended, the Camry will come to us from Japan – but Hanley says that isn’t the only thing buyers will learn about the car, which will likely be more expensive. Although pricing is still to be revealed, it seems clear in this conversation that Hanley is making a case for why the new Camry deserves to be a pricier offering.
“I think that our market, and consumers in that midsized sedan segment, will look at Camry in a new way. Its design is beautiful, its specification is what I would say is premium, a more luxurious-type specification. It also offers a very compelling hybrid package.”
Aleks Krajcer, who succeeds veteran communications manager Mike Breen as the company relocates its head office to Melbourne, added: “It’s a premiumisation, an evolution of the Camry as it’s currently known, moving slightly upmarket”.
“The new Camry also has an eight-speed transmission (replacing a six-speed unit), and performance variants will feature too”.
Hanley rounded out the conversation by adding that, for Australia and most other western markets, Lexus remains the focus in the space that a well-specified car like the Crown would potentially sit – or at least overlap with.
Like the big new Century – an anachronistic retro limousine with specifications that could potentially make Lexus LS buyers consider saving a few bucks – Japanese exclusivity helps maintain a clear gap for markets where buyers prefer to know their premium Lexus sits more than a few levels above the regular Toyota. Markets like ours… although Toyota would certainly never say that.
So, no Crown. The company is excited to be starting a new era with its advanced and more ‘premium’ new Camry, but it will leave the big rear-wheel-drive segment to the new Kia Stinger – and, a size above, the Chrysler 300.
The new Camry makes its Australian media debut on November 21. Watch for our first local drive review, and catch our global first drive review at the link below.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Tokyo Motor Show below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.