Toyota's Aging RAV4 Getting Major Makeover to Defend Sales Crown

(Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp.’s RAV4 outsold every other car and SUV in the U.S. last year, without having undergone a major overhaul since 2013.

The model’s first top-to-bottom redesign in more than half a decade is coming for U.S. showrooms with updates the carmaker is betting will cement its lead in the surging small sport utility vehicle segment Toyota pioneered. The new RAV4’s standard suite of safety features includes the ability to read road signs and alert the driver to yield or stop.

Toyota's Aging RAV4 Getting Major Makeover to Defend Sales Crown

“RAV4 is exceeding our expectations, becoming our sales leader last year with more than 400,000 sales,” Bill Fay, head of U.S. sales for the Toyota brand, said at an industry conference in New York ahead of Wednesday’s reveal. “We can’t wait to give our customers more of what they’ve been asking for.”

Toyota first introduced the RAV4 in the mid-1990s as a small, cheap alternative to hulking SUVs such as its own 4Runner and Ford Motor Co.’s Explorer. It was the best-selling non-pickup in the U.S. last year as demand for the new American family haulers boom. Sedans like Toyota’s Camry, the top-selling car in the market, are being snubbed by consumers opting for more spacious, higher-riding crossovers.

Toyota's Aging RAV4 Getting Major Makeover to Defend Sales Crown

“The fuel efficiency is really in line with mid-size passenger cars today,” Fay said of the compact SUV segment. “It provides all the utility that today’s buyer wants to have. It’s really the complete package.”

The all-new RAV4, which will debut at the New York International Auto Show, is wider and lower than the previous version, with improved ground clearance and aerodynamics. It’ll go on sale late this year, with hybrid versions -- including a new sport hybrid option -- rolling out in early 2019.

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