Johannesburg - There’s every indication that Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) will be producing a smaller Hilux-type bakkie at its Prospecton Plant in Durban.
“It won’t be a half-ton bakkie,” said TSAM senior vice president for sales and marketing Leon Theron at a recent media round-table discussion.
“We believe it will take the market by storm and are still doing a lot of development around it.”
Glenn Crompton, TSA’s vice president marketing and communications, said it would be a solution for Africa and emerging markets.
“Something that’s in the same space but more affordable than the Hilux that we’re looking at releasing around 2025/26.”
Asked whether it would be produced locally, Crompton said it was establishing whether that could happen.
“We have quite a complex plant, most plants globally produce one model. We produce Fortuner, Hilux, Corolla Cross, Hiace, Corolla Quest and trucks.
“Ideally though that’s the kind of product we want to produce in Africa because it’s a product for Africa.
The discussion followed the hosting of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) executive vice president, Hiroki Nakajima at the plant following the company’s announcement around organisational changes and policy.
TSAM was also the first affiliate outside Japan to receive the regional visit.
“Toyota remains committed to producing products tailored to local needs. If you look at Global South (which includes RSA) the focus is on quality, durability and reliability,” Theron said.
“There's been a lot of criticism levelled at Toyota for their lack of commitment to new energy vehicles, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have always maintained that different regions need different strategies to move Toyota from an automotive company to a mobility company.”
The strategy is based on three pillars.
The first is a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality globally by 2050, starting with a 33% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and 50% by 2035.
TMC will also be fast tracking Batter4y Electric Vehicles (BEV) worldwide, with 10 new models expected to be announced by 2026, accounting for 1.5 million sales a year.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are being repositioned as the “practical BEV” by focusing on improving battery efficiency to extend EV-mode to beyond 200 kilometres.
It will also continue to improve its offering in the hybrid space with a focus on quality and affordable prices by taking into account local energy conditions and customer ease of use.
In addition, Toyota is pursuing mass production of hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles and a sixth element in its approach by exploring carbon neutral fuels.
The second pillar revolves around the Toyota Mobility Concept, a new generation of intelligent cars that will evolve with advanced safety technology, multimedia and updates with an on-board operating system for next-generation BEVs, enabling users to customise driving feel according to their preferences.
Following on that is a public roll-out of intelligent services that connect cars to cities and infrastructure, such as logistics systems that use real-time traffic information to increase transport efficiency, and systems that provide optimal energy management.
Toyota is also looking at the role of intelligence in society, with the Woven City that it is positioning as a “mobility test course” that will serve as a living laboratory for trialling various ways of connecting people, cars, and society.
The third pillar, “Diversification”, is about exploring new types of energy such as hydrogen made from water, disposed foods and other waste, as well as carbon-neutral fuels made from biomass and other resources.
“Conditions vary from region to region. Africa is vastly different from Europe and, for this reason, we’re sticking to a multipronged strategy,” Theron said.
Crompton confirmed the strategy, saying: “We have to be realistic as well, products like the Hilux and Land Cruiser are popular in Africa and there’s a reason for that. With vast distances and harsh environments, a one solution to fit all wouldn’t work. It’s not anti-EV; we’re saying that EVs can’t be the solution for everyone at this point.
“Currently, the source for power isn’t carbon neutral at all. The power stations in Mpumalanga are coal fired and while you may be driving an EV, the power is mostly generated in a less than environmentally friendly way.”
Theron added that one of the things they discussed during their recent visit to Europe was to stay away from slow chargers and install only fast chargers. “We had to change our strategy and inform our dealers that they would have to install fast chargers, which is three times the price.
“So, we’re preparing ourselves and the dealer network for when EVs become more mainstream, so that we can manage the transition.
“Even in Europe though things aren’t going especially smoothly, there are a lot of complexities that have to be taken into account, and that’s why Toyota believes that there is still a place for internal combustion engines with the strategy we have in place.
“One of the things that we are concerned about is the impact that NEVs will have on our business, especially because Toyota has always been known for their good after sales service. That’s something we have to protect and we have put in a lot of strategies to counter that because the dealer network is our number one priority, because If we had to go full BEV our dealer network would lose close to 70% of their total revenue.
“That’s why we believe that PHEVs are currently the best solution if we can get the pricing model right and we’re working hard with TMC to do that.
“On the Corolla Cross HEV, we definitely want to increase our volume. Our volume this year is not too bad, but it’s not where we want it to be, and Glenn and his team have already pushed up the volume.
“We’re also going to be launching a mild hybrid Hilux and Fortuner next year, which we’re very excited about as well as the introduction of a BEV. Watch this space.”
“As you can see, we’re not anti-EV, we are looking at it but we’re just being a little more sensible about it. We have a wide range of customers that we cater for from A segment through to the premium market and, of course, taxis which we dominate.”