Toyota Division will enter the full-sized sport-utility segment later this year with the Sequoia, a variant of the Tundra pickup platform built in Indiana. It will slot between the 4Runner and Land Cruiser in Toyota's lineup, with pricing expected in the low- to mid-$30,000 range.
Sequoia is slightly larger than the Chevrolet Tahoe and almost identical in size to the Ford Expedition.
Because it comes off the Tundra platform, it shares most of the components, including the 240-hp 4.7-liter V-8. The engine has an ultra-low-emission vehicle rating, a first for the full-sized sport-utility segment.
Sequoia's front suspension will be nearly identical to Tundra's double wishbones, while the rear will get a five-link live axle with coil springs. Its ground clearance is 11 inches. Sequoia will be offered in two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models, and vehicle stability control will be offered as an option. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes will be standard.
Although the Sequoia is to be a North America-only vehicle, it was designed in Japan, like the Tundra. Engineering work was split between Japan and Toyota's technical center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Toyota expects to sell 60,000 units annually, although with the Indiana plant possibly expanding in the near future, that figure could increase sharply if demand is there.
Although the Sequoia is almost the same size as its domestic rivals, Toyota doesn't think many buyers will be traditional domestic shoppers. Rather, most buyers will be import intenders who previously had no choices in the segment, said Steve Sturm, Toyota vice president of marketing.
One big question is what will happen to the venerable Land Cruiser, which, although smaller, is priced far higher than the Sequoia. Toyota executives said the Land Cruiser will make it through its current model cycle, which should expire around 2004, but added that they will study the extent to which the Sequoia cannibalizes its sales.
'We'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't think this would have an impact, but dealers want to keep Land Cruiser as a profit center,' said John Weiner, Toyota national product planning manager.
Dropping the Land Cruiser is something Toyota would rather not do, because the model carries significant brand equity. Toyota would prefer to keep it as a premium vehicle, not make it solely a Lexus model. Toyota sold 18,602 Land Cruisers and 15,734 Lexus LX 470s in 1999.
'Land Cruiser is what got us started in America, and it has a good heritage,' Weiner said. 'It's still the ultimate sport-utility vehicle, and its shorter wheelbase and fully boxed frame actually makes it better off-road than Sequoia.'