The Toyota RAV4 Is Going the Wrong Way, but It’s Still a Best-Seller for Now
Since debuting stateside in 1996, the Toyota RAV4 has been a staple of the automaker’s lineup. Now in its fifth generation, the compact SUV is showing signs of losing its luster in consumers’ eyes. Toyota RAV4 sales are down from last year, the most stunning example of the brand’s overall sales decline. The automaker is still producing RAV4s, but the numbers suggest now is the time for a significant redesign.
What’s causing the drop in Toyota RAV4 sales?
GoodCarBadCar recently reported U.S. sales figures by car model over the past month and the last year, comparing the numbers to 2022 results. Whatever timeframe you choose to examine, the numbers don’t make great reading for anyone invested in the market status.
This past April, Toyota sold 30,386 RAV4 units, a 9.59% decrease from the 33,610 RAV4s the automaker sold in April 2022. That isn’t the only slow month. The company sold 115,090 RAV4s last year, a 14.62% downturn from the 134,802 units moved in 2021.
No brand likes to see the numbers drop, but the RAV4 is not in a dire situation yet. These figures still place the small crossover as the third-best seller in April behind the Ford F-Series (69,595) and Honda CR-V (31,776) and a distant second behind the F-Series (239,972) in year-to-date figures. But customers’ changing habits indicate that the RAV4 should transition to a new generation soon.
Toyota last redesigned the RAV4 in 2019, and the latest model is beginning to show its age, especially compared with competitors like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage, which were updated substantially to bridge the gap with the RAV4. The only alterations to the 2023 RAV4 were to the digital gauge cluster and an optional touchscreen infotainment system. That’s not enough.
The earliest that Toyota can update the RAV4 is for the 2025 model. And in all likelihood, the company will need to make significant changes at that point to improve the SUV’s sales numbers.
Toyota sales overall have decreased
The RAV4 isn’t alone in performing below Toyota’s expectations. The Corolla and the Highlander have also experienced sales declines, leading to the brand’s overall dip in 2023.
The car manufacturer sold 154,370 vehicles this past April, a 2.15% decrease from the equivalent period in 2022 (157,760). In the past 12 months, the company has sold 545,189 units, an 8.34% drop from 2022 (594,766).
Much like the RAV4, these are also first-class problems for an automaker. Toyota is still the second-highest performer among automakers, only bettered by Ford on a monthly and yearly basis. And other companies are doing worse in recent weeks. Volvo has suffered a 4% decrease in monthly sales compared to last year, while Lincoln is in the midst of a steep fall of nearly 28% in monthly sales from 9,258 to 6,683 vehicles and an 11.13% decrease from last year (from 28,406 to 25,243).
What’s the cause of all this? It could be that Toyota has more issues with the supply chain than other companies. Or perhaps the brand’s cars don’t have a distinct advantage over the rest of the pack. Or maybe the problem is a consequence of a global economy in flux. It’s hard to pin this development on any single issue.
Whatever the reasons, Toyota remains a top brand even when accounting for this underperformance.
The 2023 RAV4 is worth considering despite its imperfections
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 is still an SUV worth recommending. It’s reliable and boasts many safety features, making it an excellent choice for families.
But for all the RAV4’s merits, the outdated parts of its design are becoming more glaring as rivals evolve past it. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is nothing special in the class. Its driving experience for the SUV also leaves much to be desired because of iffy steering, stiff seats, and basic interior design. And though the RAV4 has multiple hybrid models, Toyota has yet to add an all-electric version, providing rivals like the Chevy Equinox with an easy selling point.
Toyota will have to work on these flaws to grow its share of the market in the near future.