- Toyota Australia's 2003 Concept Car the X-Runner

Toyota Australia - Could they have stayed a little longer

An ambitious concept car that never made it into production, but had it, could it have helped Toyota manufacturing stay longer in Australia?

7w ago
6.7K

As a strange irony Australia was the first place outside of Japan where Toyota manufactured passenger cars, and I believe also the first location to have ever closed a major scale plant outside of Japan. Toyota's Australian story began in the early 1960's when local manufacturer Australian Motor Industries ('AMI') did a deal with Toyota to bolt together the Tiara and then Corona. Through various iterations Toyota progressively took over AMI, survived a joint venture with GM-Holden, was an export champion, developed their own domestic market versions. They were doing great but in 2017 decided to call it a day.

But was there an opportunity 15 years earlier to stave off the 2017 closure, and kick the can down the winding road further? Were the local folks from Toyota onto a product that could have sold in droves? Could the 2003 X-Runner concept have been something that we and many others would have bought?

X-Runner certainly looked the goods!

X-Runner certainly looked the goods!

SUV's were just kicking into action around the early 2000's and Toyota Australia's response to this was to develop a concept called the X-Runner. This was an SUV with lift, all wheel drive and hero colours. Enough space in the back for boating, biking, kayaking, camping, BBQing fun hardware was a real upside. But the big benefit was being built off the Camry platform and parts bin!

Given the current love of all things AWD from Toyota with some performance (ie GRFour Yaris), its not hard to imagine this would have been able to sell globally. I know the GRFour is a different kind of animal but this SUV was market spot on for its time too. Also, could you imagine this beast fitted with TRD options (think supercharger).

Tonnes of space in the back for fun hardware!

Tonnes of space in the back for fun hardware!

At the time of being displayed at the local motor shows here in Australia in 2003 it was also said that this was purely a concept - never to be produced. But come on Toyota what was the market response at the shows? I have a distinct memory of filling out a card showing my interest...

So there's the rub; had the X-Runner gone into production on the Altona Camry-Aurion production line I'm kind of betting it would still be being knocked out and bolted together there, albeit as perhaps its third generation. It could have even been considered and named part of the Caldina family to take it globally....what the hell happened Toyota?

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Comments (9)

  • Scale economics were always an issue for manufacturing in Australia that's for certain.

    Worth reading up on data and facts though of the success in export that Toyota Australia enjoyed at this time with the Camry and Aurion - they exported more LHD units than RHD. So they had the runs on the board.

    The true answer lays within the fact that the decision to withdraw manufacturing here was that local part manufacturers weren't able to support a single car manufacturer if Toyota had of stayed as the lone survivor.

      1 month ago
  • Australia. Huge continent, bugger all population to speak of. It'd be like designing a car specifically for the Irish market. Not to belittle Eire, but it is not the biggest country out there, nor is it particularly populace. There just aren't enough sales to be had to make financial sense. Of all the many reasons that the Ozzies get the short straw these days, is the cost of supplying the Australian market with local-specific products. Australia has many unique requirements as any local will agree. There are too many alternatives available there already for many to do more than offer a choice but without any conviction... like sticking a place-holder there, just to remind Australians that manufacturer X or Y still exists. The only stuff that earns any return is stuff that's already good enough to survive Australian conditions and only needs a tiny bit of tweaking to become perfect for Oz.

      1 month ago
  • I kind of like the idea of this, pretty rad 👍🏼

      1 month ago
  • That tailgate is awful and it can only fit 2 bikes. It’s disappointing really.

      1 month ago
    • If my memory serves, the back was modular and this was the bike carrier and the design idea was other backs for other equipment types.

        1 month ago
  • It's like nealy the best ute in Australia that has been ever made! (Besides the HSV Maloo which is me favourite ute)

      1 month ago
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