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Toyota unveils Corolla Cross, SA’s first locally-produced hybrid vehicle

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 Oct 2021
The Corolla Cross price starts at R349 900 and tops out at around R448 300.
The Corolla Cross price starts at R349 900 and tops out at around R448 300.

Japanese multinational vehicle manufacturer Toyota Motors South Africa has invested R2.6 billion in building the Corolla Cross hybrid vehicle range, which it says is the first hybrid vehicle to be manufactured on South African soil.

Built at Toyota's Prospecton plant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, the Corolla Cross is billed by the automaker as being among the most affordable hybrid vehicles available locally, and Toyota hopes to win over “green conscious” customers who could not previously afford electric or hybrid electric vehicles.

The Corolla Cross price starts at R349 900 and tops out at around R448 300.

The automaker’s latest SUV comes in either the efficient 1.8 litre hybrid or the 1.8 litre internal combustion engine.

The Corolla Cross hybrid powertrain features the automaker's self-charging technology, which allows the electric battery to self-charge through the SUV's petrol engine, or by recovering energy via regenerative braking.

This means the vehicle owner does not have to plug the car into an electric socket to charge it. This process is in a continuous loop, ensuring the battery is always charged with enough power to engage EV mode.

The petrol engine has been tuned to deliver 72kW and 142Nm in its natural state, while the electric motor adds an additional 53kW and 163Nm.

Speaking at the launch, Toyota South Africa CEO Andrew P Kirby noted the Japanese vehicle manufacturer has given this project the name 'Ithuba lethu' meaning 'our turn to become a catalyst for change'. The South African plant is one of six around the world that will manufacture this vehicle, he added.

“The total investments we have made in the last five years is an accumulative figure of just over R6.5 billion globally, of which Corolla Cross accounts for R2.6 billion. So we have, therefore, committed to further developing and strengthening our business here in South Africa and making a difference in the country, our communities, our suppliers, dealers, customers and, of course, in our own employees’ lives.

“An important aspect in driving the success of this project was to ensure we satisfy our customers in SA and across the African continent, with a flexible production line, for the first time manufactured from a hybrid power plant in South Africa.”

Production capacity for this model is 30 000 units per annum, with 5 000 units earmarked for export to 41 countries in the rest of Africa, he pointed out.

What distinguishes this model from existing hybrid models, according to Kirby, is that it is based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platforms, which debut in SA.

The TNGA platforms underpin various Toyota and Lexus models, starting with the fourth-generation Prius in late 2015. The platforms accommodate different vehicle sizes and were developed as part of a company-wide effort to simplify the vehicles being produced by Toyota.

The Corolla Cross is equipped with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam at the rear for sure-footed handling and extra load-carrying ability.

Also speaking at the event, president Cyril Ramaphosa noted the Corolla Cross investment of R2.6 billion is significant for the South African economy.

“The auto industry is one of the drivers of our localisation programme. It is a significant contributor to GDP and accounts for more than 100 000 jobs in assembly and component manufacturing. It is a big magnet for foreign direct investment.

“Japan is a long-term and significant investor in South Africa. There are about 130 Japanese companies operating in South Africa, including Nissan, Isuzu and Sumitomo Rubber Industries, among others.

"I appreciate the long view Toyota headquarters has taken because it sees the value of the company’s presence in South Africa and the enormous opportunities in the years and decades ahead,” commented Ramaphosa.