Unfortunately, the demise of the Toyota FJ Cruiser was much the same as several other brands and models in the automotive industry.

The recession of 2008 took down some of the names that we had known for many years, think Pontiac, Mercury, Plymouth, and caused the automotive industry to tighten their proverbial belts.

While the Toyota brand didn’t have a lot of smaller brands at the time, save for Scion, which met a different demise, they did have to find models that would not continue to be offered. The FJ Cruiser fought hard against deletion and was offered in the US until 2014, but we can point to the lagging sales of this model that began in 2008 as the reason for its eventual demise.

Aren’t Some Markets Still Offering this Toyota?

The short answer is, yes, there are some small markets around the globe where the FJ Cruiser is still made and offered for sale. This SUV didn’t meet its end in Japan until 2017, which means it hung on for a long time after being axed in America. As you can see, this was Toyota that we wanted to keep and that wanted to continue to be offered, but ultimately met its demise.

What Made the FJ Cruiser Popular?

The Toyota FJ Cruiser was once the SUV that you would choose when you didn’t want to drive a Jeep Wrangler. It was the only SUV in the market that could match wits with the off-road champ and take you deep into the wilderness. Not only was the FJ Cruiser a highly-capable off-roader, but it also brought a retro style that was easy to admire. This vehicle was unmistakable, attractive, and offered the feeling that the large box-on-frame SUVs of the 1980s and 1990s were still part of the marketplace.

What Brought this Toyota to the Market?

Even though the recession of 2008 took down the FJ Cruiser, this SUV debuted and was an instant success when it came to the market in 2003. The FJ Cruiser was made to be a tribute vehicle to the popular FJ Land Cruiser models that were offered when Toyota started giving us SUVs. The popularity, customization, and capability of this SUV made it an instant favorite for many enthusiasts that wanted something more to take out into the wilderness and were unable to find what they wanted with other brands.

Toyota Already had an Off-Road SUV, so Why the FJ Cruiser?

The Toyota lineup, since the first SUVs arrived in the market, has always included vehicles that could handle the challenges of rough terrain and unpaved paths. Why did they build the Toyota FJ Cruiser and keep it around for so long? If it was meant as a tribute vehicle, it should have only survived a few years at best, but this SUV continues to be offered until 2014. This was an attempt at giving us an off-road vehicle that was different from what we had at the time.

The retro style, upright stance, impressive wheel articulation, and rugged build of the FJ Cruiser made it popular and highly recognizable. Even though the recession hit hard and is responsible for taking down this SUV, the sales numbers for the FJ Cruiser were on the rise before it was discontinued in the US market in 2014.

Would another generation of this SUV have been a success? Did Toyota axe this vehicle too quickly? Today, the FJ Cruiser is one of the most sought-after used SUVs in the market. Many shoppers are looking for that retro design paired with off-road capabilities.

Competitors Took Over the Market

The FJ Cruiser was under fire right from the start of its production run. When other automakers looked at this SUV that arrived on the stage at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, they were quick to point out how Toyota cut costs and made a Frankenstein of a vehicle. The cost-cutting accusation came from the fact that the shape of this SUV resembled the Tacoma and 4Runner at the time to give the thought that parts were coming from these popular vehicles.

While Toyota admitted the FJ Cruiser was developed as a basic vehicle that was capable of handling off-road challenges and push the limits while being a vehicle that anyone could afford, the simple fact was the area where this SUV was lacking was in the cabin. The cabin area was plain, boring, and uninspired, which opened the door for other models to overtake the Toyota model quickly.

The Sales Plummet Hit Hard and Fast

By 2006, the Toyota FJ Cruiser was sold at 56,225 units in the United States. This was enough to make this impressive SUV a success for the Toyota brand, but the sales were not sustained. By 2007, the sales had dropped to around 14,000 models, and that’s where they stayed for a few years. This setback was caused by the recession and was why this SUV was eventually deleted from the market.

The 2017 model year in Japan saw the “Final Edition” model of this SUV. Americans who wanted this vehicle from 2014-2017 had to purchase the FJ Cruiser in Japan and have it shipped to their homes in the United States. The cost of doing this created a completely different market for this vehicle, and very few made it to our shores by this route.

Will We See a Return of the FJ Cruiser?

The automotive world has changed since 2014, with more SUVs being sold than sedans in the United States. We long for more off-road vehicles and are starting to get them. Will Toyota bring back the FJ Cruiser? Will they continue to rely on the TRD versions of their current SUVs to give us the off-road packaging we want to enjoy?

It’s possible the off-road SUV market is opening up to more brands than Jeep. The most recent proof is the Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport, but more models will need to be offered to challenge the dominance of the Jeep Wrangler. Will one of those challengers be a new Toyota FJ Cruiser?

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