The prodigal son returns
Never heard of the Fortuner? You will
A MID-SIZE Toyota SUV developed in Australia could be coming ‘‘ home’’.
The Fortuner is based on the working-class HiLux and was developed in Melbourne for sales in countries as widespread as Malaysia, South Africa and Venezuela.
It’s being assessed for a family-focused slot between the Kluger and Prado, based on its price and seven-seater cabin layout. Local sales are not likely until early in 2014.
Toyota Australia won’t commit to the Fortuner, even though it is proud of the local work on a vehicle that’s doing big business across the globe.
‘‘ We cannot confirm or deny any plan for the Toyota Fortuner,’’ says company spokesman Mike Breen.
In the car world such an answer is usually translated as a ‘‘ yes’’ and there is plenty of reason to believe the Fortuner would work well in Australia.
It was styled and then engineered in Melbourne in a program very similar to the one at Ford Australia that resulted in the Ranger and Mazda BT-50 pick-up twins. There will also be an SUV based on the Ranger next year for sales around the Asian region.
The local engineering team did a lot of work for the Fortuner including tweaking for its many markets.
A team led by Toyota Technical Centre Australia president Max Gillard has worked on the Fortuner since 2006. The design team for the Fortuner body was led by Paul Beranger as part of local work that has included a version of the Camry sold in Asia.
The Fortuner is built in six countries including Thailand, which would be the obvious supply choice for Australia as the Toyota factory there already produces the HiLux and the country has a free trade agreement with Australia.
Middle brother: The Fortuner (centre) would fit between the Kluger (left) and Prado