A vehicle many of us grew up in has beaten us into retirement.
The Tarago people-mover, reputedly named after a small town in south-eastern New South Wales, is set to depart Toyota Australia’s sales line-up by the end of the year.
While the model will continue overseas where it is known as the Previa or Estima, the Tarago’s place here will be taken by a luxurious and expensive new people-mover called the Granvia that even conservative Toyota describes as “decadent”.
“There hadn’t been an update to the Tarago for a while and there wasn’t one on the cards for a while either,” a Toyota Australia spokesperson told The New Daily.
“So the Granvia just made more sense for us in the people-mover market – moving to a vehicle with more internal space and a higher level of luxury.
“Tarago obviously did a great job for us at the time, so it is a bit of a sad moment for us. But times move on and we have to move with it.”
While the first-generation Tarago was simply a converted delivery van with back seats like its rivals, the second generation was a sensation when it launched in 1990, thanks to its ultra-modern styling, spacious seven and eight-seat layouts, safe monocoque frame, mid-mounted engine and optional all-wheel drive.
Not only was it functional and well-built with Japanese quality, it had little competition.
“It’s staggering no other local manufacturer has considered that a family, rental client or fleet which need a people mover might also need luggage space for the people it holds,” noted Which Car? magazine in 1995.
“There is nothing on the horizon to match it and the shape is so advanced it will stay fresh for many years.”
Of course there is no such thing as a “local manufacturer” any more, while Which Car? has long gone into history, like many other print publications.
And the Tarago was headed the same way in the 2000s. A change in automotive tax structures in the early 1990s forced price rises for all people-movers, while the nascent SUV segment remained on a lower tariff. After all, only farmers and miners drove 4x4s…
A fourth-generation Tarago arrived on Australia shores in 2006, but that vehicle went through few upgrades. Its shortcoming became increasingly stark as the cheaper and better equipped Kia Carnival improved as a product.
Nowadays, the Carnival outsells the Tarago 10 to one, while the Honda Odyssey doubles it.
But all of them, of course, are thrashed in sales by SUVs, which have come to dominate the Australian market at the expense of both people-movers and passengers cars.
It wasn’t only pricing that drove the switch from people-movers to SUVs of course. Imagery played its part, too. While a Tarago said ‘vasectomy’, a Toyota Kluger – which less efficiently seats seven but does it with far more swagger – shouts ‘virility’.
“People-movers aren’t successful because they are people-movers,” said RedBook.com.au general manager Ross Booth.
“Who wants to be a bus driver?
“People-movers are still popular overseas but not in Australia. SUVs have completely taken over – you can see that in resale values.
“The Tarago and the Kluger are similar in price and the Kluger dominates it. The reason for that is there isn’t demand in the used market.
“SUVs are what people want to be associated with.”