An electrified version of Toyota’s favourite bakkie is probably far closer than you think
While Yesterday’s annual Toyota State of the Motor Industry address centred on the how the company countered the ravages of lockdown, a bold sales prediction and the arrival of the Corolla Hatch as an SA-made model, the biggest news of the day was perhaps veiled in an answer to a question Auto posed how Toyota SA boss Andrew Kirby saw the South African motor industry placed in a rapidly electrifying global business.
TOYOTA PLANS A HYBRID MODEL
More specifically, our question was based on Kirby’s SOMI prediction three years ago, that the SA industry would increasingly serve less advanced markets, which by their nature, would be slow to pick up on electrification. Three years down the line, he predicts more of a hybrid model, if you’d excuse the pun…
“We have a most complex model,” Kirby pointed out. “Yes, we indeed serve Africa and we must continue to service their needs based on the existing model. “But we also supply first world export markets and we have to rapidly come into line with their urgent electrification needs as well. “And then we need to take care of our home market too, which sits somewhere in the middle.”
A little earlier while unveiling plans for the new Toyota Corolla Cross that’s set for local release, Kirby’s enthusiasm to deliver locally built hybrid technology was palpable. “We are delighted to bring hybrid technology in-house, to get to know and understand it and to apply it,” he explained. “This will make hybrids far more affordable and attainable to a much broader market — we see it as a crucial aspect of our future market.”
SO, WHAT ABOUT HILUX?
So, while his comments were based on the new Corolla Cross, which will be built at Toyota South Africa’s Prospection plant, Kirby alluded that further locally spun Toyota Hybrids are likely cover more than just the company’s forthcoming SUV. Corolla Cross will of course be built alongside Hilux in prospection and it’s already no secret that a hybrid Hilux is on the cards. It’s not a question of if, it is more when that will happen.
Toyota SA is rather mum on the subject — our usually forthcoming plant would not sway on his “no comment” on an electrified Toyota bakkie.
Toyota New Zealand boss Neeraj Lala is however adamant an electrified Hilux is far closer than we think: “We hope to have Hilux hybrid enter the market before the end of next year,” he promised in a recent interview. The company’s Aussie boss Sean Hanley however did his best to quell hybrid hysteria, stating: “we have no announcements in relation to a hybrid Hilux,” when taking posers on the latest version of the latest bakkie’s launch there.
KIWI BOSS ADAMANT, AUSSIE CAUTIOUS
Hanley however went on, “We would surely not rule that out — I’ve stated before that we need to get our emissions output down. “Toyota started its journey 20 years ago with Prius, so in a practical product sense we’ve been moving towards this for a long time. “Hybrid is more than 20 per cent of our sales mix, so would we rule it out? “No, we would not, but we don’t have any announcements at the moment.”
Hanley went on to suggest that Toyota would continue to pursue its standard hybrid technology rather than a plug-in or battery electric vehicles. “We’ve never ruled out any plug-in hybrid option on any variant, but we believe we have the most practical solution (in hybrid).” Hanley had previously intimated that hybrids will account for 40 per cent of Toyota sales by 2030 and that Hilux and Land Cruiser are a vital part of that formula.
“So, we cannot confirm a hybrid ute (bakkie), but certainly we are looking at all those types of expansions going forward — it’s unlikely to be this generation, given that it is mid-life but there’s no doubt that some type of electrification will happen — we have to to meet targets.”
EUROPEAN HILUXES ARE BUILT IN DURBAN
Although Australian and New Zealand source their Hiluxes from Thailand, Toyota South Africa of course supplies locally built Hiluxes to most of Europe, among other key markets, many of which now face draconian measures to sell electrified vehicles. And those hybrid Hiluxes would likely need to come out of TSA’s Prospection, Durban plant.
Australian sources suggest a hybrid Hilux may be a diesel-electric, but Auto begs to differ for two moot reasons.
Firstly Toyota does not have a diesel hybrid and diesel hybrids are notoriously difficult fo mate. That’s due to issues with a natural harmonic conflict between armature windings and the compression combustion engine’s low rev and high torque outputs.
But the second reason is even more pertinent — diesel in any form is already a no-no in Europe, so it’s a non starter, considering Prospection’s hybrid Hiluxes will need to sell sell on the Continent too…
LEXUS HYBRID TECH SUITS BAKKIES EVEN BETTER
Never mind Lexus already has 20 years of large capacity and all-wheel-drive petrol-electric experience and its drivetrains are there for the plucking. When we recently tested the Lexus RX450h, we took it off road where it would supposedly be a duck out of water. It wasn’t, really and the potential of that V6 petrol-electric system did not fail to dawn on us in a Hilux application.
Of course, that does not rule out smaller-bore petrol hybrids, or even diesels, which would be essential for farmer bakkie sales, considering their reliance on discounts on that juice. Farmers are of course a mainstay to Hilux sales in most markets. All these are challenges that we feel Andrew Kirby and his merry men at Toyota SA are wringing their hands for in anticipation of a proper development project. Which is likely already 80% done anyway…
Talking development, what better way for Toyota to explore its hybrid Hilux than at the Dakar? A challenge that Audi’s arrival using a ‘range extender’ hybrid would fire a huge amount of interest, considering such a Toyota’s essential development purpose. But that’s a separate story in itself…
So, IS A HYBRID HILUX COMING? WATCH THIS SPACE!
As Mr. Hanley suggested above, a hybrid Hilux would likely be part of an all-new platform. Those comments tied into Toyota NZ chief Lala’s promise of a 2022 Hilux hybrid lead us to believe that new bakkie may break cover at the end of the year. As new Hiluxes always do. Or within a year or so of that…
Until then, we’ll keep digging and be sure to keep you abreast of developments as they happen. Watch this space!