Ads for the 1959 Toyopet Crown called it "the kind of car that American families have been asking for" and touted it as "the world's greatest automotive value."
It was neither.
In the past 50 years, Toyota has launched several vehicles that didn't sell well — the Van of the early 1980s, the T100 pickup in the 1990s and various small cars such as the Tercel, Starlet, Paseo and Echo. But those vehicles didn't flop like the Toyopet Crown.
Yanked in 1961 after fewer than 2,000 were sold, the compact Toyopet Crown sedan stands today as Toyota's only outright failure in the United States.
The company line is that the Crown — "the first car of the Orient to be introduced in the United States," said the early ads — didn't sell here because it was not engineered for the American market. The car was basically a converted Japanese taxicab that was too slow and too heavy for America's highways.
Some of that certainly is true. But the story of the Toyopet is more complicated.