The Toyota Land Cruiser Clings on to Life in the U.S. Thanks to Lexus

2020 was a very tumultuous year for the Toyota Land Cruiser. Aside from facing a massive decrease in sales, Toyota decided to kill it off after the 2021 model. However, a new report suggests that the Land Cruiser may carry on in the U.S. with a brand-new name. According to Automotive News via CarBuzz, Lexus is adamant that there is enough demand to continue building body-on-frame SUVs.

Why did the Toyota Land Cruiser get the ax?

Like all significant automotive decisions, it all comes down to the bottom line. According to CarBuzz, just 3,471 Land Cruiser models sold in 2020. For context, Toyota managed to sell 212,276 Highlander models during the same time.

What makes the Land Cruiser sales figure, especially troubling is that it represents an 11.6 percent decrease from 2019. However, this does not necessarily mean that demand for body-on-frame SUVs has vanished. Take the Toyota 4Runner, for example, that managed to sell 129,052 SUVs in 2020.

Additionally, Lexus already makes its own version of the Land Cruiser, called the LX. In terms of off-roading capabilities, the two SUVs are nearly identical. They even share the same 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V8.

Most importantly, they cost almost the same, with the Toyota starting at $85,415 and the Lexus at $86,580. Despite this, Lexus managed to sell 4,512 units of its flagship off-roading SUV. This represents a much smaller 5 percent decrease from 2019. Given these sales figures, you can probably guess what will happen next.

How will Lexus save the giant off-roader?

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser in the mountains
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota

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We already know that a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser is underway for the rest of the world. Additionally, Lexus never formally pulled the plug on its flagship SUV. As a result, the next generation of the iconic off-roader may arrive in the U.S. with a Lexus badge up front.

According to CarBuzz, Lexus sees the potential for body-on-frame off-roading SUVs to become big sellers in the U.S. As a result, both the LX and smaller GX will carry on. This is because the smaller GX managed to sell 28,519 units in 2020, marking a 9.2 percent increase from 2019.

Additionally, CarBuzz reports that Lexus is considering developing an all-new body-on-frame SUV to sit alongside its version of the Land Cruiser. While it is not yet clear what segment of the market this off-roader will target, the success of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, and Ford Bronco might give us a clue.

What will power the next-gen Land Cruiser?

As it stands, the Toyota Land Cruiser is powered by a naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter V8. Power is rated a 381 hp and 401 lb-ft. As you might expect from an off-roader, power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. While this powertrain is one of the most robust in the auto industry, it can clearly trace its roots to Land Cruiser models from 2008. As a result, this off-roader needs a significant refresh.

As of writing, there is very little available information about the brand-new Land Cruiser. However, CarBuzz reports that the next generation of this off-roading SUV will feature various engine options. The first will likely be a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6. Additionally, a hybrid powertrain is reportedly on the way as well. For markets where diesel is more readily available, Toyota might give the next generation a 3.3-liter six-cylinder engine, says CarBuzz.

Given the similarities of both the Lexus and Toyota versions of the SUV, chances are these changes will eventually make it to the LX. As a result, the Land Cruiser will likely carry on in the U.S., just in disguise.