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Toyota is South Africa’s most important vehicle brand and whatever the Japanese company does, influences the entire local economy. Most South Africans use a Toyota to get around, as Quantum and HiAce almost entirely supply the country’s taxi fleet. In addition, Hilux remains the best-selling vehicle and in its role as a bakkie, is a crucial gear in the local logistics, farming, construction and service economy.

When Toyota makes any announcement about its future product and production plans for South Africa, it has a significant impact and opportunities for the broader economy, And the latest declaration is quite meaningful. I has now been confirmed that the company’s Prospecton production asset, in KZN, will  build a petrol-electric hybrid model, due for assembly in 2021.

This is a monumental shift from its current production of Corolla Quest, Quantum, Hilux and Fortuner. Although demand for all four of those models remain extremely strong, Toyota realises that South Africa’s automotive future must hybridise. Toyota is being very coy about exactly which  hybrid vehicle will be built locally, only confirming that it “will not be a sedan”. Definitely not a Prius then.

Broadening Corolla’s appeal

The most obvious Toyota hybrid vehicle candidate for local production, is the new Corolla Cross. It rides on the company’s GA-C platform, and that means it is slightly different from the Corolla Quest, which uses Toyota’s MC architecture.

With Corolla Quest tooling and production systems already in place and running smoothly, the transition to Cross would have low industrial engineering friction. Both vehicles use the same core architecture and ZR-series 1.8 litre petrol engines.

By Lance Branquinho