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Meet the Five Most Influential Vehicles Toyota Has Ever Built

In less than a century, Toyota went from a small local manufacturer to arguably the automotive industry's biggest name. It managed this feat by understanding market trends and constantly innovating and redefining itself. Although it mass-produced many different vehicles, the following five stand out as the most influential.
Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series 16 photos
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It all started in the 1930s with Kiichiro Toyoda’s vision for the future. He believed that the automotive industry, which was still in its infancy back then, had a huge potential.

From 1929 to 1930, he traveled across Europe and the United States, researching the industry. A few years later, he established a division exclusively dedicated to automobiles within the company built by his father, Sakichi Toyoda.

That division would later become Toyota Motor Company, and after the Second World War, the company rapidly went global. Today, it’s the world’s top-selling brand, and these five vehicles had a major influence on the company’s success story.

Toyota Supra
The legendary model gets its name from a Latin prefix, which means “to surpass" or "go beyond” and that’s exactly what Toyota managed with the Supra.

Spanning five generations, it surpassed other manufacturers' sports cars because of the combination between a relatively low price, reliability, and performance.

The most influential Supra is without a doubt the fourth generation, which was produced from 1993 to 2002. It was one of the most popular sports cars of the nineties, becoming legendary in the street racing and tuning scenes thanks to its incredible 2JZ engines.

Toyota Mirai
Using hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles is not a new concept, but Toyota is among the few manufacturers who have intensely researched and developed this technology ever since the early nineties.

All that work resulted in the most popular mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the Mirai, which began production in 2014 and got a complete overhaul last year.

The revolutionary sedan offers all the benefits of a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) but with one major advantage: driving range. It does not need to be charged, and refueling the Mirai is as fast as a conventional gas-powered vehicle. Its range is also similar to ICE-powered cars and still superior to what BEVs can offer.

Moreover, the technologies pioneered by this model are used by Toyota to transform the industrial sector and replace diesel engines with hydrogen fuel cells.

Toyota Prius
We can all agree the Prius isn’t one of Toyota’s most aesthetically appealing cars, yet it’s one of the most influential.

Launched in 1997, it became the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car, and although the first generation wasn’t that popular, the second one was a different story.

Toyota sold over 1,100,000 second-gen Priuses worldwide, and the car is credited for kickstarting the hybrid revolution. Now in its fourth generation, the Prius is still a very popular hybrid, but unlike its predecessors, it faces tough competition.

Toyota RAV4
In the early nineties, Toyota engineers had the ingenious idea of creating a vehicle that would combine the off-road capabilities, interior space, and higher visibility of an SUV with the maneuverability and fuel consumption of a compact car.

The result was the RAV4, which launched in Japan and Europe in 1994 and North America a year later offering exactly that.

It quickly became hugely popular and is credited by many for the rise in popularity of the crossover SUV segment. Four generations later, the RAV4 is one of Toyota’s best-selling models worldwide.

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota's longest-running series of models and the second longest-running SUV in production worldwide behind Chevy’s Suburban, the Land Cruiser is one of the most popular vehicles ever built by the Japanese carmaker.

It started life as a Jeep knockoff destined for military use shortly after the Second World War, and then redefined the notions of reliability and off-road capability in the automotive industry.

The J40 and J70 generations were the most popular, and the latter was so good that it’s still being manufactured today, 37 years after it rolled off the assembly line for the first time.

Toyota built many models under this nameplate, from the aforementioned, virtually indestructible 4x4s to more refined SUVs like the J100 or the current J200 generations.

Although Toyota will retire the nameplate from the U.S. after the current model year, the Land Cruiser is surely going to live on and reinvent itself so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

There are other models worth mentioning like the Corolla, Celica, or Camry that also played a big part in Toyota’s success. Still, we believe these five were more important for both the Japanese manufacturer and the entire automotive industry.


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