By on January 20, 2012

Are body-on-frame SUVs long for this world? Not according to Toyota USA President Jim Lentz who made the bold prediction that ”By 2025, I think one can assume that most of the frame-based vehicles will be gone.”

Lentz made the remarks while discussing the future of Lexus and their SUV lineup. Lexus currently markets two frame-based trucks, the GX460 (aka the Toyota Prado) and the Lexus LX570 (based on the Toyota Land Cruiser 200). Those models may be popular with U.N peacekeepers in world markets, but Lentz feels that car based SUVs can handle the towing requirements that have traditionally been an advantage for truck-based SUVs, without the weight or efficiency drawbacks.

Lentz isn’t alone, with Nissan and Ford shifting their Pathfinder and Explorer models to unibody construction. Sales of the Explorer have doubled since the redesign, even with an outcry from the automotive press. Chevrolet won’t be bringing their truck-based Trailblazer to North America either, since the Traverse and Equinox have been judged to do the job adequately. Cars like the Range Rover Evoque will likely be the rule, rather than the exception, for premium SUVs going forward. On the other hand, vehicles like the Chevrolet Suburban, which are spun off of full-size truck platforms (and are extremely profitable because of that), will probably stick around for a long time.

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42 Comments on “Body-On-Frame SUVs Gone By 2025: Toyota USA President...”


  • avatar
    86er

    Interesting to note that Nissan put the Pathfinder on a unibody chassis before reverting to BOF for the recent iteration.

    Sales of pickups will continue to be strong among those pulling camper trailers, for obvious reasons as stated above.

    I’ve noted a cottage industry of customized F-650s and the like springing up to pull some of these 35ft+ monstrosities to your state/provincial or national park.

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      Nissan was trying to save money. Frontier, Xterra and a long wheel base Xterra with 7 seats. So they called it a Pathfinder. Then the Gas priced went out of control.
      All BOF sales tanked including Pathfinder.
      Now the Pathfinder is more like a 7 passanger Murano.Lets see if they find Explorrer like success.

    • 0 avatar
      bad_vee

      “I’ve noted a cottage industry of customized F-650s and the like springing up to pull some of these 35ft+ monstrosities to your state/provincial or national park.”

      This has been a problem for years. The worst part in my view is not that they obstruct the entire roadway, or needlessly pollute a nature area, or exist only to accommodate people who fear actual adventure. No, the worst part is that the retirees sitting in these things get a senior discount at all national parks.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Huh? When was the pathfinder ever unibody? From what I can tell it’s always been BOF.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This prediction, plus a dollar, will get you a cup of cheap coffee.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    So they’ll all become CUVs then? It’s still a segment that I can’t figure out for the life of me.

    CUVs aren’t as practical as a minivan, they’re more expensive than a minivan and won’t tow, or go off-road like a true body on frame SUV. All that and they don’t handle as well as a traditional wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      All people ever really wanted was a tall station wagon with AWD that didn’t scream “mommy car”. The industry gave them trucks with caps and carpeted beds. They handled horribly, got lousy mileage and were mostly too tall and heavy. Volvo and Subaru had it right to begin with, and Audi with the All-road.

      Even now I read in the comments, why get a Q5 instead of an A4 Avant? Because most people want a car more that 3 inches off the ground. They are hard to get into and have trouble with our potholed streets, along with reduced forward visibility.

      Yes, it’s a compromise vehicle. But that’s what people want, a swiss army knife car.

      grzydj, look at your criteria. Handling. Ok, wagon beats CUV. But CUV beats minivan and SUV. Off road. SUV best. But CUV beats minivan and wagon. Mileage. Modern CUVs beat minivans (which are freaking huge) and SUVs. Towing. SUV first, again CUV second. Space and storage, minivan first, but CUVs have more interior room than SUVs (compare Acadia and Yukon) and wagons. They aren’t best at anything, but also never finish worse than 2nd.

      It’s hard for me to look at an X5, a Highlander or an Acadia and not see an extremely capable piece of all-purpose transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Because most people want a car more that 3 inches off the ground. They are hard to get into and have trouble with our potholed streets, along with reduced forward visibility.

        Agreed… I bet most CUV/SUVs sold to women are based on those facts alone. I owned an SUV once before and the “commanding view of the road” part makes you think your a world beater. This is what sells these vehicles during a test drive. They feel big and safe, TV ads showing them driving over any and all obstacles.

        All this is fine until you try to avoid an accident, then you realize the top heavy SUV doesn’t turn or stop anywhere near as quickly as a car (or wagon). The problem is most people don’t perform accident avoidance maneuvers during a test drive, thus (like me) they never fully understand just how ill handling these BOF beasts really are.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Spy Tweets

        +1. Not to mention, honestly, to most people a wagon still looks stodgy and conservative. Very few wagons break this mold, the few that do (Dodge Magnum, Subaru Impreza’s last two generations, first generation Lexus IS Sportcross, Toyota Prius V) selling fairly well with the exception of the Sportcross. Oddly enough, I see new Jetta wagons everywhere, though I assume that’s due to people who go to the VW dealer to test drive the sedan and end up realizing how much more upscale the Wagon feels due to its Golf roots.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Because most people want a car more that 3 inches off the ground.

        One of the reasons why cars made before I was born have so much appeal to me, they look like they have Stupid-Huge amounts of ground-clearance compared to anything not a truck or truck-based SUV today.

        Why are so many cars today designed to hug the road like asphalt-limpets anyway?

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “Why are so many cars today designed to hug the road like asphalt-limpets anyway?”

        Aero. That extra ground clearance and tall body adds a lot to the frontal area, which hurts the highway mileage a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Meanwhile all that ‘Aero’ makes me leery of pot-holes, speed-bumps, and steep driveways.

        To my eye at least most modern cars seem unusually tall and narrow for their length compared to earlier cars, I like the shorter-wider body proportions of those older cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      If you can’t figure out the appeal of CUV’s you are not paying attention. Slance66 calling them “swiss army knife car” is a great description because they can do a lot of things reasonably well, and their sales numbers bear that out.

      I have owned pickups and SUV’s for almost 20 years now, and the new Jeep Cherokee will give me the utility part of SUV (pull trailers, haul stuff) as well as almost car like quiet, comfort, and handling compared to BoF trucks. What’s not to like?

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        I’ve owned a slew cars, trucks, SUVs and even a CUV, if you can call the Subaru Forester a CUV.

        For me, handling is where it’s at. I’ve crossed the Rocky Mountains in a Jeep Liberty one time, and another time in a Subaru Impreza 2.5i another. The difference was significant in terms of how much easier the Subaru was to maneuver than the Jeep the year before. It also got more than 10 mpg better than the Liberty did on the same trip, all the while zooming around corners with aplomb.

        Right now there are two Subaru wagons in the fleet, but with a very aging Legacy wagon that has been used pretty hard, a replacement may be looming in the near future. I am now pressed with the decision of trying to decide what to buy to replace it.

        A 4 door Tacoma would be versatile and reliable, but it handles like a pig compared to the Subaru wagons I own mow, and the design is getting a bit old in the tooth.

        A Forester with new FB engine would be nice, but then I’m back to bellyaching about it not handling as sharp as the 2.5i Impreza.

        Maybe a Subaru Outback 3.6R would be somewhere in the middle. I really wish Subaru would make a plain Legacy wagon again.

        I’ll never make up my mind at this rate.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Why CUVs? My theory is that women have veto power over the family hauler vehicle and gasoline for a compromise vehicle is cheaper than insurance for separate optimized vehicles. Women appear to want non-minivan vehicles tall enough to see over traffic, but never cared about truck capabilities of a SUV. Eventually CUVs will gain the same stigma as minivans and station wagons before them and a new category will be invented.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @George B, absolutely.

        Growing up (1977 to 199-something) my father (with very little input from my mother) bought a 1978 Monte Carlo, 1982 Chevy Celebrity, 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, 1992 Pontiac Bonneville. After a rocky patch in their marriage from which my mother emerged with more say about what went on and how the mony was spent (BTW the 2 of them have never been happier) suddenly the vehicle choices changed. 2005 Chevy Blazer (S10) followed by a Pontiac Torrent. I asked dear old Dad why he didn’t buy a good old sedan like the old days.

        “Mom wants something that lets her sit up high.”

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    cant say i have much respect for a pointless prediction like this. a hammer is and always has been shaped like a hammer because that is what a hammer is. try hauling just one ton of dirt in a theoretical unibody truck and not expecting the precious and expertly computer controlled and assembled unibody frame to not flex one bit is laughable. just today i rode in a 1994 vintage mercury villager with 200k, and it still runs pretty solid, but the entire front end body makes an obvious creaking noise when turning.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      So your weapon of choice for hauling 1 tonne of dirt is a Suburban? Because the article is talking about SUVs.

      Also, have you ever looked at an iron bridge? Not many of them are made by running a C- or Box section beam from support to support. They all have arches rising above or below them.

      Trucks are not BOF because that is the best way to carry a heavy load. They are BOF becase that is the cheapest way to carry a heavy load, while providing easy repair and flexible manufacturing to support multiple wheelbases and configurations.

      You could make a substantially stiffer and lighter truck from a spaceframe or BOF structure. It would just cost eleventy-bajillion dollars, and only be available in one cab/box/wheelbase combination.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    After Toyota turned its BOF lineup into utter monstrosity (both in looks and in size) – I will shed no tears when they go. Love the 96-02 4Runner, 80/90/100 Series Land Cruisers and 2002-09 LC Prado (not Lexus GX though).

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      The Land Cruiser 90/110 series were Prados. 80/100 series were the full sized Land Cruisers.

      What do you have against the GX? I drove one for a couple weeks in December around Dallas. Just a fully optioned Prado, the way I see it.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    By 2025?
    That is an awful long time from now. Making that prediction is about as challenging as predicting the auto market in China will be bigger than today’s.

    What is his next prediction? Vehicles will be assembled predominately by robots by 2041?

    OK. Thanks.

  • avatar
    Marko

    You can have unibody construction while keeping the towing/load capabilities of a truck – that is what Jeep has been doing for years.

    Unibody does NOT necessarily mean car-based.

    • 0 avatar
      crinklesmith

      And the XJ Cherokees turned out to be extremely rugged and well suited when judged on their ability to complete “trucky” tasks.

      • 0 avatar

        Or the Comanche unibody-pickup version, those could have a 5th-wheel platform mounted into the bed and easily pull 10k-lbs 5th-wheel RVs all the way to 70mph all day long.

        Hell, helped (in 4L) pull a bobtail big-rig tractor out of a ditch with it once, saved the guy a VERY expensive tow and got a free dinner out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      This is part of the reason I purchased a used Grand Cherokee. I preferred having a lightweight unibody, over a full-frame, for less weight and slightly better fuel economy. I can still tow up to 5000 lbs (six-cylinder), which is the most I need to to do when I do tow anything I have (tow dolly or small camper). The rare times I need to tow a large car trailer, then I just rent a truck.

      Their may be a market for full-sized, full-frame, SUVs, but that market will wane to the niche that it used to be back before the mid 1980s.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Prediction? This has already happened. There are very few BOF SUVs left and those that still exist fill two small niches: capable off-road machines like the Wrangler and towing machines like the Suburban.

    As much as I dislike CUVs as the dorky hybrid bikes of the car world I hope that their rise in popularity will mean a return to more capable, purpose-built, no frills BOF SUVs that were available 20 years ago.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    The 1st VW Touareg was able to tow 7700 LB. The new Grang Cherokee and Durango can do a decent Job as well. If the industry direction keeps on going that way most BOF SUV will stay in the past.
    Only thing is that trucks are still BOF and as long as the market needs them there will always be someone who can make a buck by making a passanger version.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Get them while the getting is good. I was pretty much planning on getting a Highlander a few years ago, but my wife always liked 4Runners. We drove the 5th gen (2010) on a whim, on a snowy day, a few years back and I simply loved how it just chewed up the snow and steep roads. We already had 2 other cars that would do the “car duty”, so I felt good with getting something that was a little more off the beaten path, pun intended, as far as capability goes. I’ve had my 2010 for 21 months and 27k miles now and simply love it. Yeah, the onroad handling is on the sloppy side compared to CUVs, but I’ve taken it places that a CUV simple won’t go. As soon as my wife gets her station wagon, we’ll probably knock the miles way down on the 4Runner, so I can see myself keeping the 4Runner for another 15 years to do what it was meant to do.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    the only BOF units around are huge Landcruiser/Patrol UN vehicle types which will always be around and the Thai built compact trucks which form the Trailblazer/Colorado/Ranger types which have proven to be very popular.

    They ain’t going anywhere.

  • avatar
    ajla

    In the year 2025, If BOF is still alive
    If displacement can survive, we may find…

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    Good one, though most won’t get the reference.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    more and more it looks like my 80 series land cruiser will be my last vehicle.

  • avatar

    The BOF vs. unibody CUV debate is retarded. BOF Does Not Matter. What matters is if the vehicle has the low gear or not. And apparently even that is not all that important for the mass market.

    Also, Lenz is only saying that because Tundra is such a dismal failure in the marketplace. Otherwise he’d be praising the architecture made in San Antonio.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I still think that the Tundra was a market failure due to the loyalty of the buyers to their present trucks. The vast majority of pickup buyers were more than happy with their trucks, unlike three decades ago when Detroit pretty much sent invitations to its car owners to go Japanese. In fact I would argue that this is pretty much the same thing as those owners who will not touch a Detroit car, only in reverse. Yes the Tundra had issues, even some serious ones. But so did Ford and GM with their pickups at one time or another.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I still think that the Tundra was a market failure due to the loyalty of the buyers to their present trucks.

        Last year, the Tundra sold over 80,000 units. Not a screaming success, of course, but I wouldn’t exactly call that a failure, either.

        The full-size truck market is a tough nut to crack, with a lot of loyal buyers. A company in Toyota’s position should allow at least 20 years to make a serious go of it. It took them at least that long with the car market, so they ought to know that.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        I went for a Tundra after too many Ford blown automatic transmissions and axles. However, if a GM dealer had the configuration I needed in stock, I may have ended up with a Chevy or GMC. I’m in the minority that is not brand loyal, having owned trucks of several brands since the ’70′s.

        Unibody is not necessarily weak, or light weight. Compare a 1970 Plymouth Fury with the contemporary Impala or Galaxie.

        My boss has an LX470, based on my Tundra. Its terrible as a car.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    So, if I tow (and I do) I should get an HD Suburban with leather after 2025.

    Because all the crossovers drag their butts like a dog with worms when you try to pull anything over 6000 pounds.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      HDs are a special breed, with their leaf packs. Regular BOF SUVs are coil sprung, so there is no reason why they should be sprung differently than a similarly set up unibody.

      I’ve spent some time in the latest Cruiser, 4runner and FJ, and the amount of space you give up compared to a unibody is considerable. The real reason for their popularity, is that they;re sold everywhere, and have great rough usage reliability records. If Toyota can build and sell a unibody vehicle similarly reliable, people will switch to that.

      Special purpose rock crawlers like the Wrangler will probably also stay BOF with live axles, just like the article noted pickup based mega SUVS will. The question is more about vehicles in the Land Cruiser category.


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