Since its introduction in 2006, the FJ Cruiser has been Toyota’s version of a fun, rugged, retro-styled SUV, paying homage to the original Toyota FJ40 Land Cruisers that first appeared in the 1960’s. After several years in production, however, the FJ Cruiser will be discontinued after the 2014 model year, leaving the niche off-road segment solely to the hot-selling Jeep Wrangler. Nevertheless, the Toyota SUV is not going away quietly with sales trending upward in its final year on sale to match its strong value retention.
While Toyota no longer sells over 55,000 units of the FJ Cruiser as it did in 2006 and 2007, sales have been steady since 2009, averaging roughly 13,500 deliveries per year through 2013. Considering the relatively small number of changes Toyota’s off-roader has undergone until now, its ability to maintain its appeal to a niche following cannot be overstated. In fact, through the first six months of the year, sales of the FJ Cruiser actually increased by 25%, even outpacing the popular Wrangler whose deliveries are up 10%.
Toyota has accomplished its recent growth in FJ Cruiser sales despite committing very little of its incentives budget on the outgoing model. Spending is up a negligible $40 per unit in 2014 year-to-date and has averaged a paltry $160 for each FJ Cruiser sold, which speaks to how much its demand has risen recently as the sun begins to set on the model. The low incentive spending and rising demand have done much to positively influence the vehicle’s value retention as well, which was highlighted in the March 2014 edition of NADA Perspective that covered light duty truck and SUV retention. Out of 24 compact utility vehicles, the FJ Cruiser ranked second with a lofty value retention figure of 69.7% after the Honda Element’s 74.2% mark.
To celebrate the sendoff of the FJ Cruiser, Toyota pulled out all of the stops and is offering consumers the best most capable FJ yet, dubbed the Trail Teams Ultimate Edition. Built on the already capable FJ Cruiser Trail Teams, the Ultimate Edition adds in Heritage Blue paint along with black accents and a white grille, which make its presence hard to miss. Although, the Ultimate Edition isn’t just about looks, the most notable feature on the Ultimate Edition is its race-inspired Toyota Racing Development (TRD) off-road suspension. This new suspension includes TRD Bilstein shocks with increased articulation and high-speed stability, in addition to remote oil reservoirs in the rear to decrease damping fade.
Other important Ultimate Edition features include 16-in TRD gunmetal beadlock-style wheels with BF Goodrich all-terrain KO LT tires and a heavy-duty TRD front skid plate made from one-quarter-inch thick aluminum. With only 2,500 Ultimate Editions being built it is one rare beast, which should become very desirable for collectors and FJ fanatics down the line. As for price, in order to take home a FJ Cruiser Trail Team Ultimate Edition you will have to spend near $40,000, which is a lot considering you can pick up a bottom-of-the-line FJ for just under $30,000.
Although the FJ Cruiser has not sold in high volumes over the years, it has exhibited solid demand relative to its low supply. Also, considering its makeup as a fairly utilitarian vehicle with off-road capability, it was always going to be a niche vehicle in Toyota’s product lineup that currently consists of over 20 different models. Coming from the largest automaker in the world, it is understandable that a low volume model such as the FJ Cruiser would be discontinued after a several year run, but its sales figures do not reveal how special and unique the vehicle is. The FJ Cruiser is an example of what Toyota’s engineers can achieve when tasked with developing a serious all-terrain truck. However, just like what happened when the brand ceased building sports cars prior to the return of the Scion FR-S, the realization that there may never be anything like the FJ Cruiser again could be helping push sales.
Considering that the Hummer H3 is gone and the FJ Cruiser will soon disappear as well, the Jeep Wrangler will be left all alone in this ultra-niche go-over anything anywhere SUV market. So, if you’re in the market for something that can survive a zombie apocalypse, and you don’t like Jeeps, then don’t wait and get an FJ Cruiser before it’s too late.