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Is Toyota watching and waiting on the long-term reception of the Ford Bronco before publicly committing to an FJ Cruiser replacement?
Don’t bet against it, as early signs point to a strong and sustained sales bonanza for the reborn Bronco, a vehicle that is conceptually very similar to the Toyota as well as the evergreen Jeep Wrangler.
Developed in Australia under Ford’s T6 Ranger/Everest program and unveiled in July for the North American market, Bronco fever has gone through the roof, with an 18-month waiting list and over 150,000 (albeit refundable) orders and counting. Plus, 3500 examples of the circa-$90,000 First Edition sold out within hours… twice over. Though it won’t reach customers until next June, Ford already has a bona-fide hit on its hands.
It is clear Toyota wants to ascertain how long the Bronco’s success lasts, and seems willing to bide its time on when to re-enter the retro SUV market it helped invent with another modern take on its classic FJ40 four-wheel drive sold from 1960 to 1984.
Interestingly, in a ‘let’s see who blinks first’ scenario, if or when Toyota does give the green light for the FJ Cruiser replacement, that could also likely mean the go-ahead for Ford Australia to do the same with the Bronco.
How? Despite reports of Bronco being barred from our shores for being a left-hand-drive-only proposition, it is understood that Ford Australia and New Zealand’s new president and CEO, Andrew Birkic, might be a very strong supporter for the Bronco Down Under, since the veteran engineer played a part in its development as a result of his “integral role” in the T6 architecture.
While right-hand-drive models haven’t yet been announced, the Bronco’s underpinnings are obviously ready for it.
Whatever the Australian future is for the FJ Cruiser replacement or Bronco, Toyota is still set to go after the retro-SUV market anyway, with the smaller Bronco Sport-rivalling TJ Cruiser.
Unveiled in concept guise at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, it mimics the Ford by being based on a medium SUV platform – in this case, the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) as found in the wildly successful Toyota RAV4 – rather than a body-on-frame truck as per the old Toyota Prado-derived FJ Cruiser (and bigger Bronco).
Maybe the T in TJ Cruiser stands for TNGA.
The Bronco Sport, by the way, employs Ford’s C2 architecture that underpins the latest Focus and new Escape.
It was widely reported last year that Toyota had given the all-clear for the TJ Cruiser to enter production, with speculation in February suggesting that the world would see the finished vehicle surface in May. Inevitably, however, that was before the COVID-19 pandemic called for a sudden change of plans.
Now, later next year might be the earliest time we see the TJ Cruiser, as a 2022 model. If we do, and Australia is on Toyota’s plans, Ford Australia may retaliate with the Bronco Sport, in yet another tit-for-tat from the two historic rival brands.
It will be fascinating to watch.
The original FJ Cruiser, by the way, was in no hurry to rush headlong to Australia when it debuted at the Detroit auto show in 2003 as a 2005 model. We didn’t see it locally until early 2011. But the retro Toyota 4x4 proved a hit anyway, with sales doubling initial expectations for the first three years, before declining markedly after that.
The FJ Cruiser was withdrawn from Australia in 2017, though it continues to be sold elsewhere.