Toyota recently announced that it will end production of the Venza crossover SUV in 2015, discontinuing the model after just six years on the market. The Venza was first introduced in 2008 as a unique crossover option that blended characteristics of an SUV, wagon, and sedan. However, despite initial strong sales, demand for the Venza has declined steadily in recent years.
Toyota’s decision to kill off the Venza is not entirely surprising given its struggles in the marketplace. However, it does raise questions about the company’s strategy in the hotly competitive SUV and crossover segments. Here is a closer look at why Toyota is discontinuing the Venza and what it means for the brand going forward.
Declining Venza Sales
The Venza got off to a fast start when it launched, with over 93,000 units sold in its first full year in 2009. However, sales peaked a year later at just over 58,000 as the vehicle marketplace became saturated with crossover options. By 2014, Toyota was selling just 30,000 Venzas annually – a nearly 50% drop from its peak.
Several factors contributed to the Venza’s sales decline. It was priced at the higher end of the crossover market, but lacked the brand cachet and amenities of luxury models. The unusual styling was intended to set it apart, but may have deterred some conventional SUV buyers. As competing automakers flooded the market with newer, flashier crossovers the Venza likely got lost in the shuffle. Its discontinuation underscores the intense competition Toyota faces in the crossover segment from both mainstream and luxury brands.
Crossover Craze Creates Crowded Market
The Venza’s downfall can be attributed partly to the overwhelming popularity of crossovers that has led to a very crowded marketplace. Crossover sales have grown at a rapid clip, taking market share from sedans and traditional truck-based SUVs. Every major automaker has rushed to roll out crossover models to meet demand, giving consumers many options to choose from.
Toyota itself has expanded its crossover lineup to include the RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner and several others. As a “tweener” crossover, the Venza lacked a clear place among Toyota’s own offerings. With competition also coming from the Honda CR-V, Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and multitudes of other strong crossover nameplates, the distinctive Venza ultimately got overshadowed.
Toyota’s crowded crossover lineup and the Venza’s declining sales likely made it an easy call to drop the model. The company is streamlining its offerings in the face of stiff competition. As crossover sales boom, Toyota is focusing on established nameplates that resonate better with consumers compared to the murky positioning of the Venza.
No Direct Replacement Planned
Toyota has announced no plans for a direct replacement for the Venza once production ends in 2015. This indicates the company feels its existing crossover lineup provides enough options for buyers interested in a 5-passenger midsize utility vehicle.
The Venza’s discontinuation effectively leaves the RAV4 and Highlander to span Toyota’s presence in the compact and midsize CUV segments. The RAV4 was fully redesigned for the 2013 model year and has been a strong seller, while the Highlander was overhauled for 2014 and also posted big sales numbers last year. Toyota apparently sees no need for another crossover that would flank these successful models.
With no 3-row version of the RAV4, however, Toyota does lack a direct competitor to the popular Ford Explorer which essentially has the midsize crossover segment to itself. Toyota could re-enter the large crossover market in the future, but the Venza’s death signals that will not happen in the short term.
No More “Stylish” Toyota Crossovers
An interesting consequence of dropping the Venza is that it eliminates Toyota’s only truly daring and stylish crossover. The Venza stood out from an aesthetic perspective compared to the conservative, mainstream designs of the RAV4 and Highlander.
It was clear Toyota was targeting a more expressive, design-conscious buyer with the Venza’s sleek shape and distinctive front and rear ends. Discontinuing it reaffirms that Toyota prefers to play it safe when styling its crossover lineup. This conservatism may broaden appeal, but limits the brand’s ability to attract customers seeking bolder, more imaginative design.
The Venza was Toyota’s sole attempt at an upscale, fashion-oriented crossover. Its demise means we are unlikely to see the company venture into that territory again in the near future. For now, Toyota seems content offering competent but bland crossovers that favor function over form. The wider auto industry has moved decidedly toward bold, emotional design – but do not expect Toyota to follow that trend.
What About the Camry and Sienna?
Two other models that share underpinnings with the Venza raise questions about their futures: the Toyota Camry and Sienna minivan. The Camry midsize sedan and Sienna minivan are mechanically related to the Venza and use the same production facilities. However, Toyota insists it will continue producing both models without disruption despite the Venza’s discontinuation.
The Camry and Sienna remain high-volume, profitable models for Toyota even as overall car sales decline industry-wide. The Camry is still America’s best-selling passenger car, while the Sienna maintains decent minivan sales. Toyota has aggressively updated them in recent years to remain competitive. Though their platform mates, neither the Camry or Sienna rely heavily on Venza parts or production capacity.
Toyota says it can ramp up capacity for the Camry and Sienna at its Georgetown, Kentucky plant as Venza volume winds down. When the Venza dies next year it should not directly impact availability or sales of either model. Still, the Venza’s demise puts more pressure on the Camry and Sienna’s continued success in declining segments.
What Venza Owners Should Do
For current Venza owners, the crossover’s death should not be cause for panic. Toyota says it will continue providing service, parts and support for the Venza as usual during the remainder of its lifespan and after production ends. Owners can safely drive their Venzas and have assurance of maintenance from Toyota and its dealers.
That said, Venza values are likely to drop faster than normal with the model being discontinued. Owners looking to sell or trade in their vehicle may find its diminished status limits resale value. Lessees nearing the end of contracts may face early termination or inflated buyout fees from Toyota Financial Services. Overall, existing Venza owners will feel some negative effects in terms of long-term value.
With no direct successor coming, shoppers interested in a used Venza could also see inventories dry up sooner than expected. Toyota’s crossover lineup lacks a vehicle with the Venza’s unique combination of styling, ride height and interior room. For buyers who still want those qualities, purchasing a Venza while they remain on dealer lots may be the only option.
What This Means For Toyota
The Venza’s discontinuation has broader implications for Toyota beyond just vanishing from the crossover lineup. Firstly, it raises doubts about Toyota’s commitment to stylish, innovative design – an area where the brand has traditionally lagged competitors. It also shows the intense pressure Toyota faces in the competitive crossover market.
Toyota’s conservative instincts are keeping it from branching out as crossover sales explode. While segments like compact SUVs gain popularity, Toyota is retreating to focus only on core models. This contraction contrasts with brands aggressively expanding crossover offerings and dabbling in new niches.
Stepping back from the Venza reinforces Toyota’s identity as a pragmatic, but uninspired brand. Functionality is still prioritized over flair in both design and how models are positioned. As today’s car buyers demonstrate more diverse and emotional tastes, Toyota’s reluctance to appeal to them beyond a narrow range could limit its growth.
The Venza was a rare creative risk for Toyota. Now its death sends the signal that Toyota is only comfortable operating in the mainstream crossover market. As consumer preferences and the auto market evolve, Toyota’s devotion to no-frills utility vehicles may prove problematic. The Venza’s failure and cancellation shows Toyota lacks vision regarding where the industry is headed.
While killing off a slow-selling model is financially prudent for Toyota, the underlying reasons for the Venza’s struggles point to problems. Toyota trails competitors in innovation, design appeal and expanding its offerings in popular segments. Dropping the Venza highlights how Toyota is focused on protecting existing volumes over taking risks to find future growth opportunities.
In the end, the Venza will be just a footnote as Toyota’s offerings evolve. But this crossover’s brief life shines a light on Toyota’s reluctance to adapt as the marketplace changes. Killing off the Venza may help Toyota’s bottom line in the short-term. Longer term, however, the discontinuation underscores looming threats from newer, hungrier competitors. Toyota’s practical but conservative product philosophy has worked well so far – but as the Venza demonstrates, it could constrain the brand’s success as consumer preferences move past that traditional approach.
Why is Toyota Venza discontinued?
Here are some key reasons why Toyota discontinued the Venza:
- Declining sales – After strong initial sales, Venza sales dropped nearly 50% from its peak in 2010. Toyota was only selling around 30,000 units annually near the end. As competition grew in the crossover market, the Venza failed to gain traction.
- Crowded Toyota crossover lineup – With models like the RAV4, Highlander, and 4Runner, Toyota’s own crossover offerings left little room for the Venza to differentiate itself. It got squeezed out by more popular Toyota models.
- Lack of identity – The Venza was intended to blend SUV, wagon and sedan attributes into a unique crossover. But this led to a murky market positioning that consumers struggled to understand.
- Plain styling – While the Venza was supposed to be Toyota’s more stylish crossover option, its conservative design lacked flair compared to bolder competitors. It didn’t attract customers looking for striking looks.
- Higher pricing – Toyota positioned the Venza at the luxury end of the mainstream crossover segment. But its price and lack of brand cachet limited appeal versus real luxury models.
- Shared platform issues – With the Venza discontinued, Toyota’s Georgetown plant can focus more production on the Camry and Sienna which share the same platform.
In summary, the Venza lacked a clear role among Toyota crossovers and its distinguishing qualities failed to resonate with buyers in a highly competitive segment. Its demise reflects Toyota’s aim to simplify its crossover lineup and allocate resources to models with clearer market positions.
What are the common problems with Toyota Venza?
Here are some of the most common problems reported with the Toyota Venza:
- Excessive oil consumption – Some Venza models are prone to burning through oil quickly between oil changes. This can require frequent top-offs.
- Faulty air fuel ratio sensor – The AFR sensor measuring engine air/fuel mixtures can malfunction and cause issues like stalling, rough idling, or poor acceleration.
- Transmission problems – Some Venzas have had problems with the automatic transmission slipping, jerking, or abruptly shifting. Faulty transmission valves or solenoids are often the culprit.
- Power liftgate failures – Issues with Venza power liftgates not opening or closing properly are common. Motor or actuator failures in the liftgate are usually to blame.
- Paint defects – Due to inadequate paint application or curing, Venzas may develop bubbling, peeling, cracking, or discoloration in the painted exterior surfaces.
- Navigation/radio screen failures – The navigation and radio screens commonly malfunction or go completely blank on the dashboard.
- Wind noise – Abnormal wind noise from the doors, windows, or liftgate at highway speeds is a common annoyance. Poor sealing and weather stripping is the cause.
- Engine knocking/ticking – Some Venzas emit a loud knocking or ticking noise from the engine, indicating problems like low oil or faulty components.
- Brake squeal/squeak – High-pitched brake squealing when stopping is a nuisance for some Venza owners and indicates a need for brake service.
Is the Toyota Venza a SUV?
No, the Toyota Venza is not considered a traditional SUV. It falls into the crossover SUV category. Here are some key differences between the Venza and standard SUVs:
- Body style – The Venza uses a car-like unibody construction, unlike truck-based body-on-frame SUVs. This provides a smoother ride.
- Size – As a two-row midsize crossover, the Venza is smaller and lacks the interior space of bulkier traditional SUVs.
- Ground clearance – With only 8 inches of ground clearance, the Venza is designed more for on-road use rather than off-roading capability.
- Towing – The Venza has a max tow rating around 3,500 lbs. Full-size SUVs can tow over 8,000 lbs in comparison.
- Available AWD – The Venza offers optional AWD but primarily relies on the front wheels for power. Most SUVs have RWD or 4WD setups better suited for off-road use.
- Fuel efficiency – As a crossover with available 4-cyl engines, the Venza offers much better mpg figures than most truck-based V6/V8 SUVs.
So while the Venza has a raised ride height and available AWD like an SUV, it is engineered more like a car for better comfort and efficiency over off-road performance. Toyota positioned it as a crossover alternative to bulkier SUVs better suited for families.
How long will Toyota Venza last?
Here are some key factors related to how long the Toyota Venza can be expected to last:
- Reliability – Toyota vehicles have a reputation for reliability and durability. Proper maintenance goes a long way with the Venza.
- Mileage – The Venza can reasonably be expected to reach 150,000-200,000 miles or more if properly maintained. High mileage Venzas are not uncommon.
- Age – A well-cared for Toyota Venza can easily last over 10-15 years. Many on the road today are from 2008-2012 model years.
- Use – Venzas used primarily for highway commuting or as family haulers tend to last longer than those used for more severe duty like towing. Gentle use extends lifespan.
- Maintenance – Following the recommended maintenance schedule for oil changes, filters, timing belt/water pump, etc. is vital for longevity.
- Condition – Venzas that are lightly used, garaged, and kept in good condition tend to outlast those exposed to heavy use, accidents, rust, and neglect.
- Ownership – Careful owners who service their Venzas regularly and address problems early get the most years out of them.
While designed to last at least 200,000 miles, proper care and maintenance are the biggest factors determining an individual Toyota Venza’s lifespan. With the right owner, it’s not uncommon for these vehicles to log over 250,000 miles and keep going strong.
Which is better Camry or Venza?
Here’s a comparison between the Toyota Camry and Toyota Venza:
Size and space:
- The Camry is a midsize sedan, while the Venza is a midsize crossover SUV.
- The Venza has more overall interior room and cargo space.
- The Venza seats 5 passengers, the Camry seats 5 as well in most trims.
- Both offer four-cylinder and V6 engine options. The V6 Venza is more powerful.
- The Venza is available with AWD, the Camry is front-wheel drive only.
- The Venza has higher ground clearance and is better suited for light off-road use.
- The Venza offers a power liftgate and standard roof rails which the Camry does not have.
- The Camry can be had with options like a sunroof and heated/ventilated seats typically not available on the Venza.
- The Venza comes standard with a 6.1″ touchscreen, the Camry has a 7″ screen on higher trims.
Comfort and utility:
- The Venza has a smoother, quieter ride quality thanks to the crossover chassis.
- The Venza’s raised ride height makes for easier entry/exit and better visibility.
- The Camry sedan has a more responsive, sporty driving feel and maneuverability.
- Both the Camry and Venza have good reliability ratings as they are Toyota vehicles.
- The Camry sedan edges out the Venza slightly according to most reliability surveys.
In summary, the Venza is better for cargo flexibility, AWD capability and passenger/cargo space. But the Camry is more affordable, efficient, nimble handling and offers better reliability and more options.
Why buy a Toyota Venza?
Here are some of the top reasons to buy a Toyota Venza:
- Unique styling – The Venza has a distinct and sleek crossover design that stands out from boxy SUVs. Its curved profile and slick roofline appeal to many buyers.
- Smooth ride – The Venza’s car-based chassis, suspension tuning, and sound insulation provides a very comfortable and quiet ride. It handles more like a sedan than a truck-based SUV.
- Passenger room – There is ample legroom and headroom for all passengers thanks to the Venza’s tall roofline and flat floor. Interior space is generous.
- Cargo versatility – The Venza has a very usable 34.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The flat load floor makes hauling large items easy.
- Available AWD – Unlike many crossovers, Toyota offers the Venza with an optional AWD system for added traction and performance in slippery conditions.
- Toyota reputation – Known for quality and reliability, the Venza benefits from Toyota’s manufacturing strengths and excellent resale value.
- High safety scores – The Venza performs very well in accident tests, with top crashworthiness ratings lending peace of mind.
- Refined ride – Engine and road noise is kept to a minimum, with the V6 offering smooth acceleration. The composed handling inspires confidence.
Overall, buyers who want an elegant, reliable and family-friendly crossover with Toyota’s reputation for quality may find the Venza compelling. Its combination of comfort, utility and thoughtful design make it very appealing.
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