Pour one out for the retro off-roader that never reached the heights it was meant to.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is finally, officially, and completely dead after a 17-year run. The SUV, which was discontinued in the US after the 2014 model year but survived in other parts of the world, quietly ended production in December 2022. The vehicle was being produced by Toyota's subsidiary Hino in Japan and shipped to the Philippines and South Africa.
This means you probably still can find a new 2023 Toyota FJ Cruiser out there somewhere, though the inventory must be on its last legs. The model received quite a few final editions thanks to its staggered discontinuation around the world, but not this time. It almost seems fitting that the FJ Cruiser would disappear quietly into the night, with no plans for a successor on the horizon.
South African automotive publication Cars.co.za made the discovery after realizing the vehicle had been pulled from Toyota's SA website. After reaching out to Toyota directly, a spokesperson told them, "Yes, we can confirm global discontinuation of the FJ Cruiser product line as of December 2022."
With retro looks that were as quirky as they were rugged, the vehicle existed in a niche space at precisely the wrong time in the US. Being introduced here in 2006, the vehicle sought to grab a slice of the off-roading pie that was really only being enjoyed by Jeep and Hummer at the time.
The SUV sold well in its first couple of years moving over 100,000 units, but then the recession hit and everyone was concerned about fuel economy again; the FJ's V6 at its best could only produce 18 mpg combined. After 2008, the sales numbers never really recovered, and after six years of failing to break 20,000 in sales, it left our shores for good.
It's hard to understand why it failed in today's off-road-obsessed world. The Jeep Wrangler it was competing against barely ever faltered in sales, and it managed the same if not slightly worse gas mileage. So what was the FJ Cruiser doing so wrong?
The best decision Jeep has ever made was creating the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Creating a go-anywhere Jeep that had real-world practicality thanks to four doors opened the brand up to so many more people that would have never given it a second thought. The FJ, although offering five seats and a suicide-door layout, was more similar to the two-door Jeep in its practicality than the Unlimited; the back seats were cramped, and having to open the front doors to open the back became a nuisance.
Jeep wasn't the only competition, though, because the FJ was also competing against its own brethren. Take the Toyota 4Runner, for example; the same model you can still get on sale today offers much of the same stuff the FJ did (including the abysmal fuel economy) yet has enjoyed its best success ever in the past six years. The vehicle is body-on-frame, offers very good off-road capability, and is decidedly old school, yet consumers have repeatedly chosen it over newer and more capable options.
The 5th generation 4Runner debuted in 2010 and immediately started stealing the FJ's thunder. As the FJ's sales never picked up strength, Toyota realized this just wasn't the right vehicle for us and decided to pull the plug to make way for more off-road-focused models in the TRD Pro line.
Today the off-road market is booming. Not only are the 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler still selling well, but now the Ford Bronco is stealing its share of the market. It's an off-road wonderland, and if the FJ had stuck around just a bit longer, we believe its sales struggles would have turned around. After all, its retro styling is right up there with what modern buyers seem to love.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and as the years have gone on, the prices of used FJ cruisers have crept up. People have realized just what a cool, unique, capable vehicle it was and are willing to pay stupid sums to get their hands on them.
The FJ was just ahead of its time and underappreciated, and now may it finally rest in peace as another part of misunderstood automotive history.
Join The Discussion