The hy­brid hot list

Corolla looks the goods as an ideal en­try model, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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