Does Toyota's Mysterious Trademark Mean Trouble for Ford and Jeep?

The name Toyota is trying to trademark sounds a lot like a new off-road vehicle.

toyota ft4x concept
Toyota

Toyota had very fair reasons for discontinuing the FJ Cruiser SUV back in 2014. The 4Runner and Tacoma both fill that midsize body-on-frame off-roader niche, after all — and both sell like crazy. Why bother with another one?

But one could make a case for that calculus changing. Used FJ Cruisers in good condition go for nearly as much as new ones did; Jeep continues to make hay while the sun shines on the Wrangler; the Ford Bronco netted nearly 200,000 reservations, and the Hummer is returning. Maybe there's room for an FJ Cruiser replacement — perhaps along the lines of Toyota's super-cool FT-4X concept from 2017 (seen above)?

Well, Toyota seems to have just tossed some gasoline on the smoldering fire of hope for a new off-road vehicle: the carmaker has filed a trademark application for "Trailhunter" in the United States under the category "automobiles and structural parts thereof."

Trail implies some form of an off-road vehicle, and the name Toyota Trailhunter really rolls off the tongue, making it easy to that could easily be a plausible FJ Cruiser replacement.

Of course, this name doesn't have to apply to an off-road vehicle. Indeed, as fun as it is to fantasize about the prospect, we suspect it's not a new standalone off-roader. Toyota has a clear track record, particularly in the off-road truck and SUV space, of only acting when needed — and despite having the oldest truck in a hyper-competitive midsize truck segment, Toyota sold more Tacomas than Corollas in 2020. The 4Runner still held its own in the top 25 vehicles too. New versions of both will arrive in the next few years. Why mess with that?

The best vehicular bet for Trailhunter might be another three-row SUV, as people can't get enough of those. (Then again, Toyota also trademarked "Grand Highlander" earlier this year for a big crossover.)

Realistically, then, Trailhunter seems most likely to apply to a new trim level. But Toyota already has rugged TRD Pro and TRD Off-Road trims for its off-roaders, not to mention the Trail trims; the market for yet another rock-crawling-focused variant seems saturated.

So, lacking any inside knowledge, if we were to guess where the name Trailhunter would fit in the lineup, it would be on something Toyota does need: a more rugged, active-lifestyle trim for the Highlander to fend off the upstart Kia Telluride, one that doesn't need to go full TRD Pro.

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