JOHANNESBURG - The 2019 State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) address, hosted by Andrew Kirby, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), delivered some interesting facts about the affairs of the local automotive industry and its socio-economic context.

Some of the pertinent topics discussed at SOMI 2019, held at the Kyalami Racetrack last Tuesday, included the South African Automotive Masterplan, the potential of the Auto industry in Africa, as well as the industry outlook for 2019.

According to Andrew Kirby, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), total vehicle sales for the 2019 will continue the downward trajectory that began in 2013 - with the exception of 2017 when the market registered a marginal increase - and settle at 550 000 at the end of the year.

The Masterplan, developed jointly through strategic collaboration between the government, industry and labour unions, will replace the APDP from 2021 to 2035. Kirby says while the automotive industry appreciates the government’s continued support of the sector, there is a number of focus areas that need to be addressed in order for the Masterplan to be a success. These include lack of infrastructure such as stable and competitive ports and rail, as well as the maintenance of urban roads. The quality of South African fuel is also poor, which in turn, could hinder the availability of world-class vehicle engines for the South African market, while there are also concerns about technology disruptors and how they’re likely to influence customer needs. However, one of the main challenges to domestic market stimulation is the relatively high tax structure that makes vehicle ownership almost impossible for many.

Kirby says about 50% of new cars sold in Africa are produced by Toyota South Africa Motors. “We already have a strong foothold as we currently export to 42 countries on the continent,” Kirby concludes.

FEAST OF CARS ON SHOW

Toyota took the opportunity to showcase its new, latest and forthcoming models at the Kyalami circuit last week. Here’s a round-up of the models of interest:

Corolla Hatchback

This new C-segment hatch replaces the outgoing Auris, and features an angular head- and tail-lamp treatment, a wide stance and modern interior. The Corolla hatch is fitted with a 1.2-litre turbocharged mill (as utilised in the C-HR crossover). Smooth mid-range torque, quiet operation and decent fuel efficiency form part of the engine’s characteristics, according to Toyota. Customers have the option of a six-speed manual transmission or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with 10 pre-programmed shift steps.

The Corolla Hatch is underpinned by Toyota’s TNGA platform - which promises to deliver an engaging drive along with excellent ride comfort. Three derivatives are on offer - XS Manual, XS CVT and the flagship XR CVT. All models offer a generous specification level including LED headlamps and DRL’s, smart entry, sport seats, dual-zone climate control and Vehicle Stability Control (with hill-assist function).

Rav4

The all-new RAV4 adopts a striking look, inspired by the American ‘truck’ design language, and boldly announces its arrival on the ultra-competitive SUV market, Toyota spokesmen say. A prominent trapezoidal honey-comb front grille and upswept LED headlamps form the front façade. Shown in range-topping VX-grade, the RAV4 features a raft of convenience and safety specifications - including Toyota Safety Sense; a nucleus of active safety systems including Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-Collision System.

Two all-new petrol engines (available in 2.0 and 2.5 litre-guise) will power the range, driving either front or all-four wheels. Full model line-up and detail will be released in March when the newcomer hits showroom floors.

Hilux GR Sport

The next product iteration in the Gazoo Racing line-up is the Hilux GR Sport. The GR Sport builds on the rock-solid foundation that the Hilux Double-cab has established for itself, and amplifies its street and off-road credentials. The limited edition Hilux GR Sport features bespoke Gazoo Racing-themed decals, a unique front grille design, two-tone colour scheme and GR Sport-specific 17-inch alloy wheels.

The main party trick however is the special off-road biased suspension - affording the Hilux GR-S even greater off-the-beaten-track prowess. It will be based on the 2.8 GD-6 4x4 6AT derivative and also includes tailored interior treatment. The Hilux GR-S will reach showrooms mid-year.

Prius

Toyota’s Hybrid pioneer has gone under the proverbial knife, and emerged sharpened and refreshed. The 4th generation Prius debuted in 2016 with a (they call it) flamboyant exterior design and futuristic interior layout. For 2019 the hybrid-hero inherits rounder, more engaging lines with revised front and rear-end treatments, headlamps, tail-lights, wheel design and colour choices.

Inside, the cabin’s sensory quality is even more refined with new upholstery, along with revisions to the centre console and some of the controls on the instrument panel. The proven 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid powerplant continues unchanged and boasts an impressive thermal efficiency of over 40% and a combined fuel index of 3.7l/100km.

Lexus RC 350 F Sport

The fresh new RC 350 F Sport retains all the virtues of what RC is renowned for, and builds upon this, adopting the latest evolution of Lexus’ signature design language and sharpened driving dynamics inspired by the brand’s flagship luxury coupe, the LC, Lexus spokesmen say. The exterior styling remains as sporty as the preceding model, but subtle changes in the details, inspired by Lexus LC design cues, imbue it with a new-found elegance.

Inside the cabin, everything from the high-quality materials to the precise layout of controls and gauges has been crafted to maximise driving pleasure. New headlamps and taillights, visually- arresting 19” alloy wheels - complete with orange F Sport brake calipers - and revised bumper ducting create a striking appearance. The silky smooth 232 kW 3.5-litre V6 engine paired with an 8-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission provides propulsion.

Lexus RC F

Exciting news is the addition of the F model to the RC coupe range. F is the performance arm of Lexus and was introduced on the IS F model in 2012. So what does ‘F’ mean? Well the answer is rather simple; the RC Coupe receives an injection of some serious muscle in the form of a high-revving 5.0-litre V8 engine and suitably adapted 8-speed sports transmission. The thundering V8 engine serves up 351kW and 530 Nm.

The standard features list is naturally very comprehensive and includes a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, power-adjustable semi-aniline sports seats, seat heating and cooling, smart entry, lane-keeping system and advanced multi-information display.

Taking the already adrenaline-infused RC F coupe and then fortifying it with proverbial automotive steroids, results in another car, the RC F Track. The Track model amplifies all the inherent dynamic qualities of the RC F with a bespoke enthusiast-focused package. This package includes Carbon fibre body elements, a fixed carbon-fibre rear wing, lightweight aluminium racing wheels and titanium exhaust - which not only sheds 80kg of dry weight but also aids aerodynamic performance to boot.

Lexus LS F Sport

Continuing in the theme of F Sport models, Lexus’ luxury flagship saloon is also set to receive the F Sport treatment. The exterior incorporates exclusive F Sport design features and distinctive F Sport 20-inch alloy wheels. The interior receives unique F Sport front seats and instrument cluster with special interior trim options (including a bi-tone grey and black option) - allowing customers to further differentiate their vehicle. A suede headliner and aluminium door trim additionally elevate the interior space.

The exceptional twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 engine delivering 310kW and 600Nm continues to reside up front, driving the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.

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