The Toyota FJ Cruiser is a retro style SUV with styling and off road performance reminiscent of the original Toyota FJ40 Land Cruisers. Introduced as a concept car at the January 2003 North American International Auto Show, the FJ Cruiser was approved for production after positive consumer response and debuted at the January 2005 North American International Auto Show in final production form. The FJ cruiser is built by Toyota subsidiary Hino Motors in Hamura, Japan since 2006 and shares many structural underpinnings from the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.
By the time the production of the original FJ40 ended in 1984 Toyota had shifted towards increasing the size and luxury of the Land Cruiser line. The idea of a new FJ with rugged capabilities of the FJ40 originated in the mid 1990s with Toyota Product Planner Dave Danzer and then Vice President of Sales and Operations Yoshi Inaba.
Danzer worked secretly with Akio Toyoda to set up a special shop at the NUMMI plant to test the feasibility of a new FJ40 by combining Tacoma underpinnings with the bodies of Toyota Bandeirante, an FJ40 based vehicle still in production in Brazil (as a diesel model only) at the time. Akio Toyoda returned to Japan to join the board of directors giving high level support to the project. Toyota’s flagship design studio Calty was then brought on to deliver a fresh interpretation of the FJ40.
In the summer of 2004, Toyota began extensive off road evaluations of the FJ platform by driving development mules on many of the most difficult trails in North America including Moab, Utah, the Angeles National Forest, the Mohave Desert, and the famed Rubicon Trail. Despite each one off mule costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the development team was determined to push the capabilities of the prototypes in order to deliver reliable off road performance in the production model. Changes to the A-TRAC traction control system and suspension tuning came as a direct result of the prototype testing.