End of the road for FJ in NZ

The gloriously retro – and ingloriously thirsty - FJ Cruiser is about to depart the scene


THE only Land Cruiser that never lost its addiction to petrol – and seemingly paid the price for doing so – is about to leave the showroom.

Toyota New Zealand announced today determination to quit the FJ Cruiser, a gloriously retro design tribute to the FJ40, a landmark model in the brand’s history.

The FJ40 helped kickstart Toyota in many countries 60 years ago, New Zealand included. Another early adopter was Australia – which also announced today that was dropping the FJ.

In confirming talk that the FJ will depart in August, Palmerston North-based Toyota New Zealand has also revealed that the three-door five-seater accrued fewer sales in the six years it was available here than the Prado it is derived from achieved in any single year of that period.

Conceivably, the sobering tally of just 299 registrations since introduction in 2010 says less about the power of retro than it does about the kind of powerplant the FJ was stuck with.

Like the original FJ40 it was modelled on, the FJ has only come with a V6 petrol – making it the oddball in a Land Cruiser family that is otherwise now diesel-dedicated here.

Toyota determined the FJ should be petrol on grounds that it was designed foremost for North America – a cold comfort for places like NZ, where in launched when petrol prices rises were almost a weekly occurrence.

The FJ’s thirst became most apparent during the Top to Bottom drive, a dual launch promotion and celebration of Land Cruiser’s 60th year that saw a specially-prepared example driven from Cape Reinga to Bluff by a team of Toyota personnel, advertising company high-ups and a media personality. Also a brand ambassador, Marc Ellis had the leadership role.

At the adventure’s end, Toyota’s team admitted the model’s 72-litre tank was being replenished up to twice daily, whereas the diesel support truck generally got through its day on half a tank. Just as well they had a fuel sponsor.

Ostensibly a 16-day run, the venture in 2011 also stalled for a month after just a day because of the devastating Christchurch earthquake of February 22. That occurred just a day after the original kick-off date, forcing a postponement until March 17.

Still, the event was a massive publicity coup. While Man Alone at one level, Top to Bottom was very much a national event on another, thanks to extensive television and cyber-coverage. Even when the expedition was in the worst of the wild, it was never out of public sight, thanks to a satellite link.

By journey’s end, the web response had been massive: 100,000 view on You Tube, 600,000 hits on the Toyota NZ and Top to Bottom websites, 8600 ‘likes’ on facebook, massive Twitter feedback, and numerous downloads out of Flickr.

More than 4000 followers went into the draw to win a 1970s FJ40 fully refurbished by Toyota’s own ‘Signature Class’ plant in Thames.

However it clearly didn’t sell trucks, though Toyota is seeking to see the bright side, with TNZ general manager of product Spencer Morris playing down, when commenting exclusively to Motoring Network, the lack of diesel being a reason for the vehicle finding such a select local market audience.

"“The FJ Cruiser was a model intended to celebrate the wonderful Land Cruiser heritage and specifically the 40 series model. The intended markets were the US and Japan where diesel is not favoured for environmental reasons. As such it was never available with a diesel engine. 

Despite this we elected to introduce it in our market to give our customers the opportunity to own one, especially given the high regard in which the FJ40 was held.”

“Although we always knew the FJ Cruiser would have a limited production run I am confident the model with its rugged capability and retro design will continue as a Toyota icon sought after and loved by enthusiasts.”

Toyota has yet to say if it will create a successor to the FJ, but the likelihood would seem slim.