The hybrid hot list
Corolla looks the goods as an ideal entry model, writes PAUL GOVER
APETROL-ELECTRIC Corolla could take over as Toyota’s hybrid spearhead in Australia. The greener Corolla is set to be unveiled in Europe later this year and is more than just a dream machine for Australia.
It could easily take one of the eight places set by Toyota for new hybrids inside the next four years, giving the company the startingprice rival to the upcoming Honda Insight being set for a $30,000 price point next year.
Toyota has just confirmed plans for the eight new cars, from the new Prius and locally made Camry hybrid that will hit the road next year to replacements for the Lexus RX, GS and LS hybrids.
It refuses to comment on the blank spaces in the product plan, but the chief engineer of the Prius program, Akihiko Otsuka, confirms Toyota is looking for a Corolla-sized contender.
He even gave a green light to sharing Corolla components with the all-new Prius.
‘‘We are now studying. I’m sorry but I cannot give the exact name of the car, whether it is Corolla class,’’ he says.
‘‘That is the biggest reason why we adopted the platform. It is easy to utilise for other hybrid models.’’
The Corolla hybrid will star for Toyota at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, where it will be displayed with Auris badges.
But it’s also being readied for full-scale production as the Corolla and for a much broader range of countries.
Toyota refuses to comment on the potential for a Corolla hybrid, but admits it needs to get a better price than the $39,900 tag for the new Prius to get younger buyers into petrol-electric cars.
‘‘We have to expand the customer range. At the moment the Prius is still the hybrid entry model . . . so we have to make a smaller hybrid also,’’ Otsuka says.
‘‘The biggest challenge is the cost itself, because the cost of a small car is quite limited.’’
In Australia, the focus is on the locally made Camry with hybrid synergy drive. The sales forecast is 10,000 a year and it will be in showrooms early next year.
Toyota Australia’s chief of sales and marketing, Dave Buttner says: ‘‘Camry hybrid is in production in December.’’ And the other hybrid models? ‘‘Three will be revealed as we get closer to each launch. Our expectation is that one will be completely new and two will be offered on existing models.’’
Though Buttner is keen to get the Camry into production, he’s also looking forward to other carmakers landing their new hybrids in Australia.
‘‘As other manufacturers start to see the benefit of the technology, we need to develop it. As you get more people releasing more products you get to critical mass,’’ he says.
‘‘The snowball has already started rolling down the hill. Toyota welcomes that because it puts hybrids more into the forefront. So long as we can continue our lead.’’
Hatching a plan: a Corolla could head the hybrid charge for Toyota in Australia.