With the U.S. market's pronounced shift away from body-on-frame SUVs towards crossovers and tall wagons, you could be excused for thinking that Toyota would be content to let its 4Runner wither away to dust. After all, the midsize SUV has been toiling away essentially unchanged since an updated 2003 model went on sale in 2002. But apparently, that isn't the case – Ward's Autoworld has learned that Toyota will build a new 4Runner.

According to the industry publication, Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president and general manager, has confirmed that "There are plans (for a new 4Runner)," although the automaker isn't saying when the replacement model will arrive. For its part, Ward's, which maintains extensive product-cycle forecast data, says that it expects a new model for the 2010 model year, which is a bit surprising considering that we have yet to see any spy shots of prototypes.

In the article, Carter goes on to explain that not only has the 4Runner been a brand pillar since 1984 (making it one of the elder statesmen of SUVdom), Toyota actually sees potential for the SUV to pick up share as more automakers exit the body-on-frame midsize segment (read: Ford going unibody with the next Explorer and General Motors ditching the Chevrolet Trailblazer).

Carter also reaffirmed to Ward's that the Avalon and Sienna will continue to have futures in Toyota's portfolio, although he acknowledges that both vehicles have been losing volume and that the Avalon will likely take a different approach to court younger buyers. Ward's expects a new Sienna for the 2010 model year and a new Avalon for 2011.

[Ward's AutoWorld]

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