Our Point of View: Defining the Venza

February 04, 2008

by Toyota Open Road Blog

If you’ve been following the automotive business at all, you know that one of the most active vehicle categories is the crossover segment.

Fine. But what exactly is a crossover?

The term was coined for sport-utility vehicles that instead of being based on truck designs, as was traditional, are based on car designs. Toyota and Lexus invented the genre with the original RAV4 and Lexus RX300.

But now there’s an exciting new player in the crossover segment, and this new player is generating lively and welcomed debate.

We’re talking about the Toyota Venza, a crossover sedan that was we introduced to the public at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit last month.

"What exactly is the Venza," the debate asks. "Is it a wagon? An SUV? A van? A car?"

Well, yes, it’s all those things. And so folks asked, "Why do you call it a crossover sedan? Isn’t it actually a station wagon?"

It’s a fair question. The traditional definition of a wagon is an extended cabin with the roof extended past the "C-pillar", sharing all sheet metal forward of that with a sedan sibling. Since Venza doesn’t share sheet metal with anything else and is taller, with a higher seating position than sedans, "station wagon" doesn’t quite describe it.

So they asked, "Does it do what wagons do?"

Yes, we said, but it does more, since it’s roomier and has available all-wheel drive.

"Can it do what an SUV crossover can do?" they asked.

And we answered, yes, but it’s a more manageable size, without an SUV’s sometimes less-than-athletic handling. Sometimes, less is more.

Next, they asked, "Is it a sedan?"

Yes, it is, because it is most definitely a car.

Then someone asked, "Is it a Camry wagon?"

No, it’s not - it shares very little with the Camry except our corporate V6 engine-and-transmission package, used in many Toyota models.

And so, logically, the next question was, "What makes it a crossover?"

Sensing finally that we were making our point, we explained that the Venza is a crossover because it’s a sedan with the high seating position, excellent driver visibility and cargo capacity of an SUV.

And with this, we began seeing some nods of understanding, just as we did with the target customers that we interviewed, who didn’t realize they wanted something like this until they saw it.

So that’s the Venza crossover sedan. Is it something different? No doubt about it.

At the end of the day, do we care what people call it?
Not really--just as long as they call it theirs.
Originally published on the Toyota Open Road blog on Feb. 4, 2008.

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