Toyota’s Strategy Reflects Changing Times

Another Sedan Bites the Dust;
One of the Few Traditional, Truck-Based SUV’s Remains

Our 4-door Touring model Avalon is the last of its breed.
One of the only truck-based SUVs, 4Runner still has a loyal following and high resale value.

What will The Savvy Drivers be writing about over the next decade? As technology progresses, every facet of the automotive industry must be ready for change. Electric Vehicle (EVs) are on the rise and cars have become even more connected. These progressions give rise to the next revolution–autonomous vehicles (AVs). Compared to only about 1,400 total AVs on the road in the U.S. today, 33 million AVs are expected to be on the road by 2040.

The pandemic may have slowed production (and automotive industry changes) down a bit, but as things get back to normal, so does the need for automakers to be vigilant about the fact that business as usual, as they’ve known it for decades, is bound for change. Watching phase-outs and roll-outs over the next few years will be interesting.
Take the 2022 Toyota Avalon. It offers a smooth ride and plenty of get up and go with its 301-horsepower V6 mated to a smooth-shifting transmission, providing surprising athleticism on the road with excellent fuel economy (25 mpg combined) for a vehicle of its size. The roomy interior is richly appointed, the seats are comfortable, and technology is up to par. While Toyota has possibly built the best large sedan it ever has before, 2022 will be the last year of production for Avalon, and it is not being replaced by any other large sedan with a different nameplate. Manufacturers say such moves are a response to America’s obsession with trucks and SUVs, but we think there’s more to it than that.
The big, boxy, built for off-roading Toyota 4Runner continues to have a cult-following because it is one of the only remaining truck-based SUVs. It’s also roomy inside with a third-row option, and its 4.0-liter V6 (270 horsepower, 278 lb-ft of torque) with five-speed automatic transmission, rated to tow 5,000 pounds, makes it a decent hauler for the adventurous family. Tech-wise, 4Runner keeps up. Its main selling point lies in how it answers to its specific fan base by adding even more off-road capability. Specialized TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims sport all of 4Runner’s rugged underpinnings, high ground clearance, four-wheel drive and low range gearing plus locking rear differential and KDSS suspension.
Avalon’s demise and 4Runner’s continuance support a prediction that vehicles will very soon be bought and driven for different reasons. When getting from Point A to Point B becomes just a riding experience, Toyota’s mid-sized Camry and compact Corolla sedans hope to remain as practical rideshare survivors. Why does Avalon’s similarly sized Lexus-badged counterpart, the ES, remain? We’re already seeing evidence of luxury level sedans becoming more about performance in preparation for the day when driving becomes a sport. Never mind that 4Runner’s comfort ratings for city cruising are subpar and it gets average-at-best fuel economy. Futurists will recognize an opportunity to create more off-road driving parks and amateur racing tracks as driving becomes a sport, and everyday transportation becomes a riding event.

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