Toyota to build a new car in South Africa - but what is it?
Johannesburg - It has been rumoured for quite some time that Toyota South Africa would replace its local Corolla production with a new compact model, but now it has been officially confirmed, with the newcomer slated for introduction in 2021.
The local division announced at the State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) conference at Kyalami last week that R2.43 billion would be invested in the production of a new passenger car at the Prospecton plant from October 2021. It will not, however, replace the production of the latest Corolla Quest, which was also launched last week and which is based on the 11th-generation Corolla. The all-new 12th-generation Corolla will be imported to South Africa and is expected to be launched in March 2020.
But what is the new model that Toyota will produce here?
TSA is remaining tight-lipped about what this new model actually is, only revealing that it will be offered with both petrol and petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains - the latter being a first for the production facility.
Earlier rumours suggested that the new vehicle would be a more affordable model than the Corolla, and that would certainly make sense given that the traditional C-segment buyer is either migrating to an SUV or downsizing to a smaller Polo-sized hatchback.
Could it be a replacement for the Asian-spec Yaris that’s currently imported to South Africa, or a successor to the Etios for that matter? Those both seem like plausible options at this stage, and in both cases the new model would almost certainly be based around Toyota’s new GA-B platform that underpins the new Yaris, and which will form the basis of most lower-end Toyotas in the future.
Or is it a member of the Corolla family?
At the SOMI conference Toyota did point out that it wants Corolla to become a brand in its own right, almost like Land Cruiser is in the SUV space, and that it’s local strategy would be formed around three core models all aimed at different customers: Corolla Quest, new Corolla Sedan and Corolla Hatch.
Toyota’s senior VP of Sales and Marketing Leon Theron did mention that the new production model would fall in with the aforementioned Corolla strategy. Could this mean that it’s actually a fourth member of the Corolla family, perhaps even a new SUV model? Or is it simply meant to complement the new Corolla family, as in slot beneath it? Perhaps Toyota could be considering a smaller Yaris replacement that uses the Corolla nameplate, in a similar fashion to the Japanese strategy where the normal Corolla is sold alongside the smaller Corolla Axio.
1500 new jobs created
Regardless of what TSAM ends up building here, it is certainly good news for the economy, as President and CEO Andrew Kirby points out:
“With this investment, Toyota South Africa Motors is solidifying its long-term commitment to local manufacturing as well as the South African automotive industry. The investment will generate an additional R2.85 billion towards the South African economy per annum and approximately 1500 new jobs.
“It is of particular importance to note that this investment would not have been possible without industrial policy certainty in the form of APDP-2, and I would like to thank all the role-players involved in paving the way to practical implementation of the new policy regime in 2021.”