STRICTER safety standards will force Toyota to unleash a replacement for the 70 Series Land Cruiser by 2022 or 2023.
The utilitarian off-roader that’s been a favourite with farmers, fleets and mining companies since it was created in 1985 is nearing the end of its life, struggling to keep pace with rising safety expectations – in turn prompting a top secret mission to design a new model. The challenge for Toyota is maintaining or building on the rugged goodness of the current model while injecting it with modern safety features.
While Toyota upped the safety of the single-cab ute with side airbags and a redesigned bonnet to get it an all-important five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2016 – in turn returning it to the shopping lists of mining fleets from the likes of BHP and Rio Tinto – the independent safety body is planning to ramp up the pressure on vehicles boasting an ageing safety rating.
Toyota Australia product planning manager Rod Ferguson conceded the increasing ANCAP safety pressure created challenges, but that the brand would meet future expectations.
“Why not? … No reason to believe otherwise,” he said when asked whether the workhorse Land Cruiser could be created to meet modern safety standards, which increasingly focus on active safety features to avoid a crash and protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
“It is a difficult task to keep that Land Cruiser 70 Series up to [the maximum five-star rating], which is the stepping up of the ANCAP safety road map year after year.
“That’s just another challenge we face … it’s predominantly the fleet industry that’s requiring five stars.”
As it was evaluated by ANCAP in 2016, the 70 Series side-steps new rules introduced by ANCAP early in 2018 that stipulate any safety rating expires after six years. But ANCAP chief James Goodwin is planning to ramp up the pressure on “legacy ratings”, better educating fleet buyers on what safety features they miss out on with older vehicles such as the Land Cruiser 70.
Farmers and 4x4 adventurers may not be fussed about autonomous emergency braking that’s now a requirement to achieve a maximum safety rating, as stipulated by ANCAP.
“Our advice to fleet buyers … is to buy a five-star vehicle with a date-stamp no more than three years old,” says Goodwin. “Fleets are responding.”
Related: Celebrating 30 years of the LC70
Goodwin says the increasing fitment of advanced active safety features is ramping up pressure on cars that scored five stars before the requirement for features such as autonomous emergency braking.
“We should be rewarding those new good vehicles rather than protecting those ratings that are getting a little smelly.”
Given the importance of large fleet purchases to Toyota – and the 70 Series in particular – and a promise to deliver five-star safety, Toyota Australia executives can see the need to respond with a new model.
“We have to bring a car to market … that fulfils the requirements of those peoples’ livelihoods and/or recreation, whether it be construction, farming, mining, recreation, private, whatever it may be,” Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing, said. “We’ve got to bring powertrains to market that reduce our CO2 footprint but still serve to be able to enable people the freedom of mobility.”
One of those drivetrains will be a petrol-electric hybrid system, in line with Toyota’s promise to ensure an electrified version of every model by 2025.
Hanley said while there were challenges he was confident of finding a solution – and a replacement – for the much-loved 70 Series.
“We’re not sitting here deeply concerned by it, but we need to study it.”