Toyota Jimny? An Unlikely Path for Suzuki's Little 4x4 in America
Toyota and Suzuki have a partnership and rebadge each other's vehicles already. It's not that far-fetched.
The Suzuki Jimny is the tiny four-wheel-drive SUV that we absolutely love, and maybe even more than we really should. Automotive writers and critics have gone wild about it, but by any dispassionate analysis, the little Jimny sales case—where it likely wears a high price in a niche segment—is marginal in this country. If the sales justified homologating it here, wouldn't someone find a way to do it? Suzuki might be gone as a seller of passenger vehicles in America, but surely there's a partnership possibility with a company that remains in our market. Hey, wait a minute, there is!
Toyota owns a stake in Suzuki. A small one to be sure, but a real one. And with the introduction of the Ford Bronco and the subsequent elevation of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser into the realm of a modern cult classic, maybe there's room in Toyota's lineup for something small, fun, and off-road-oriented? Something that won't step on the 4Runner, Highlander, or RAV4 but might nicely fight the Bronco Sport? Let's just set the financial soundness of the decision aside for a second, because there's some white space in the Toyota lineup here, one that it has toyed with filling recently with its FT-4X concept.
And look at this car right here, the Suzuki Swace. It's a Toyota Corolla Touring Sports—basically a Corolla Wagon, a bit longer than our Corolla Hatchback. It really doesn't matter what it is. What matters is that it's a Toyota masquerading as a Suzuki in Europe. On the other end of the spectrum, Toyota-badged Suzukis are being sold in India. That means the Swace isn't some one-off thing, and that any new Toyota-badged Suzuki likely wouldn't raise any eyebrows within either company.
It might not make financial sense, but there's otherwise no good reason the oddball Suzuki Jimny couldn't theoretically be sold here as a Toyota. We even have a perfectly appropriate name for it: Toyota Blizzard. Back when the Suzuki Samurai actually sold well in America, Toyota's Daihatsu subsidiary sold a small SUV here: the Rocky. It and the Daihatsu Charade subcompact hatchback were sales disasters despite being of higher quality than many of their competitors. But the Daihatsu Rocky was also sold elsewhere as the Toyota Blizzard. It's the perfect historic name for a reborn Toyota compact SUV.
Just because there's a logical thread here doesn't mean there's much of a chance of Toyota actually bringing the Jimny to our shores. It's our understanding that homologating the Jimny for U.S. consumption isn't just a matter of crash testing a few examples. It was never designed for this market in any critical aspect—it's underpowered, too slow for U.S. tastes, and impossible to pass requisite crash testing regulations as-is. If it were just one of those hurdles, rather than several, perhaps we'd be writing a confirmation story covering the Jimny's off-the-shelf powertrain upgrade or additional crash bracing. But the Jimny's myriad issues mean we'd essentially need a heavily revised vehicle with a new or heavily re-worked frame and body and a different powertrain. That's serious money. We'd imagine it'd catapult our imaginary Toyota Blizzard considerably out of a feasible price range.
That said, we can hope that Toyota decides to take a chance. Maybe the marketing value on a "viral" vehicle could make up for the losses, or perhaps a reciprocal deal to sell more Jimnys abroad through Toyota's distribution network could recoup any lost financials in the U.S.. Look, we're not saying this is going to happen. We're just saying there's a chance.