Toyota South Africa’s annual State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) event has become renowned for its exciting product reveals that show us what lies ahead for the brand.
This year’s event didn’t disappoint on that front, with some eagerly anticipated new products like the Prado, LC70 and Hilux GR-S III hitting our shores soon (read more about them here).
But there was no word on a certain utilitarian bakkie that some had hoped to see on local soil for the first time.
When questioned about the new Toyota Hilux Champ at the Q&A session, Toyota SA’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Leon Theron said the company was “looking at options” to bring it into the country but said it was too early to confirm its introduction.
If it did arrive, Theron said, it would be at a “much later stage”, corroborating earlier hints from TSAM executives that a sub-Hilux entrant could arrive around 2025 or 2026.
Theron also confirmed that it would not be called the “Champ” on our market, a name that Nissan once used on its evergreen 1400 bakkie that was sold until 2008.
The “Stallion” name, once used for Toyota’s sub-Hilux bakkie in the 1980s and 1990s, has been strongly rumoured to make a comeback with the new entrant, but Toyota SA has yet to confirm or deny this.
The Toyota Hilux Champ was launched in Thailand late last year and given that it’s already available in right-hand drive format, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to ship it our way.
However, it is likely that the local delay is due to Toyota seeking to build the new bakkie in South Africa - something that might be necessary in order to price it comfortably below the current Hilux.
Toyota hinted at this vehicle at a media round-table discussion in May last year, before it was even announced internationally.
Toyota SA’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Glenn Crompton said the company was looking at introducing something “in the same space but more affordable than the Hilux” around 2025 or 2026 and that local production was also under investigation.
“We have quite a complex plant, most plants globally produce one model. We produce Fortuner, Hilux, Corolla Cross, Hiace, Corolla Quest and trucks,” Crompton said.
“Ideally though, that's the kind of product we want to produce in Africa because it’s a product for Africa.”
Possibly working in the Hilux Champ’s favour for local production is that it shares its basic ladder frame chassis and its engines with the Hilux.
In Thailand it’s available in short wheelbase and long wheelbase guises, the later matching its Hilux sibling’s 3,085mm wheel span.
Buyers can choose from 2.0-litre (102kW) and 2.7-litre (122kW) normally aspirated petrol motors and a 2.4-litre turbodiesel with 110kW.
Toyota also offers it with three load configurations, including a chassis cab designed to accommodate numerous aftermarket body configurations.
Toyota’s Thai division said it developed the Hilux Champ after thoroughly researching customer lifestyles.
Although it’s still too early to speculate on potential South African pricing, the Hilux Champ is encouragingly affordable in its home market, with Thai pricing starting at 459,000 baht, about R245,000. For comparison the Thai Hilux starts at 564,000 baht (R300,000) in that market in its most basic single cab guise.