It’s been a hard year and we’re so close to the finish line. Before it leaves us, though, 2020 is going to deliver one last sucker punch to the gut. The Chunichi Shimbun newspaper reports that Toyota will kill off the Crown sedan. This, my friends, is an outrage.
Since 1955, the Toyota Crown has been a staple of Japan’s motoring landscape. The Crown is as much a part of Japan as the Holden Commodore was a part of Australia, or the Ford Cortina a part of pre-Thatcher England. Except, it is even more so because there have been 15 consecutive generations spanning 65 years of unbroken lineage.
Crowns have served as everything from executive saloons to taxis to police cars. Even more so than flagships like the Century or Supra, they are the standard for Toyota because they have permeated all strata of Japanese life. On the streets of every prefecture, Crowns are as inescapable as sushi restaurants and cute cartoon mascots. When the Crown sedan dies, so will a huge part of Japanese car culture.
There hasn’t been an official statement from Toyota, but according to the Chunichi Shimbun, the reason for the decision is declining sales due to changing customer tastes. Most customers are in their 60s or above, and younger buyers are drawn to “lifestyle” vehicles like outdoorsy kei cars and SUVs. The current gen Crown was introduced in 2018, and sold a healthy 50,000 units. Last year, sales dropped to 36,000, and by October 2020 they’ve only sold 18,000. By comparison, during the height of the Bubble Era in 1990, Toyota sold over 200,000.
So what will become of the Crown? Well, you may have noticed that we’ve been saying the death of the Crown sedan. That’s because the Chunichi says the Crown could live on, its name being used from 2022 onward as that of a crossover based on the Highlander. From a Nürburgring-tested rear-drive sedan to a Nordstrom-tested front-drive SUV. Ugh, maybe they should just kill the name altogether.
In retrospect, we should have seen the writing on the wall. Toyota says that the current Lexus GS, which shares a RWD platform with the Crown, will be the last, and they killed off the Mark X last year as well. With the Crown gone, it’ll truly be the end of an era.