The prodi­gal son re­turns

Never heard of the For­tuner? You will

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­

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

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