A HYBRID Corolla will head an “invasion'”of new models from Toyota early next year as the brand here, and the buying public, gears up for a major swing to petrol-electric power.
The distributors are today revealing details and arrival times for four new hybrid models early in 2019, but they only mention three by name.
We already know of the three imminent models, though today we can reveal exact arrival dates and more detail.
The trio comprises the Auris hatchback/estate, RAV4 SUV and large Camry saloon.
The fourth model?
The distributors here are declining to comment at all, but you can take it as certain that the fourth will be the brand new Corolla, which will major on having a 1.8 hybrid powertrain, though there will also be a conventional 1.6 petrol.
The car, deemed the world’s best seller, has always been hugely popular with Irish buyers and is due mid-February with prices to be announced, like the others, on October 18.
I reckon the Corolla’s hybrid version could account for as many as 80pc of the family saloon’s sales.
That is based on the level of enquiries we get here at Motors for such a combination now that diesel is regarded by so many as not being an option anymore. The new Corolla will make its world premiere in China in late autumn.
Incidentally, Ireland is the first country in Europe to be unveiling all four hybrids so early, though I assume finer details on pricing and spec are still being thrashed out.
The “invasion” marks another significant juncture for Toyota, which has already announced it will not be selling diesel passenger cars next year.
Diesel has fallen to 16pc/17pc of their passenger-car sales and that will dry up completely in the near future.
To fill the gap left by the likes of the Avensis diesel, the hybrids would be expected to make up 70pc/75pc of all passenger car sales next year.
That echoes a major turnaround in buying patterns. To put it in context, hybrids accounted for 6pc of the brand’s sales here in 2015.
Would-be Avensis buyers will, on first glance, have reasonable options – the larger, more powerful Camry, the Corolla saloon (which I understand will be more “premium”) or they can even dip into the Auris Touring Sport (estate). The latter has, believe it or not, a similar footprint to the departing family/fleet model.
Again, it is important to note that prices and trim for all will be announced on October 18.
It’s fair to say they seem to be planning a long lead-in to both whet people’s appetites and to meet high levels of enquiry at a time when the public mood is swinging away from diesel and, in Toyota’s case particularly, towards hybrid.
They are so bold as to suggest demand may outstrip supply in some cases for the first quarter of next year – a hint, perhaps, to potential customers to get their orders in early.
I think the timing of the detailed announcement in October is excellent from a strategic perspective, coming as it does after the Budget (October 9).
Incidentally, the “invasion” drive they talk about is firmly based on the brand’s Global Architecture (TNGA), which means they can promise, and deliver, on better-looking cars.
Already the C-HR compact SUV is underlining just how great the Japanese giant can make a car look these days.
While the C-HR has just petrol and hybrid powertrains – no diesel, as already outlined – the new RAV4 goes one further: It will come here only as a 2.5-litre hybrid.
First arrivals of the popular SUV are expected from the first week in January.
This new one is 10mm wider and has a 30mm longer wheelbase than its forerunner.
They claim extra space in a more comfortable cabin and say luggage room is up to 580 litres.
There is also an updated version of the interactive Toyota Touch 2 system with 3D sat-nav mapping, voice recognition and phone connectivity.
Meanwhile, the new Auris small-family car benefits from much sharper styling and is 25mm lower than the current one but has a 40mm longer wheelbase.
Make that a 100mm longer wheelbase for the Touring Sport (‘estate’), which has much the same footprint as the Avensis, believe it or not.
Both the hatch and Touring Sport are due in dealers the third week of January.
They will come with either a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain (petrol electric).
Toyota are claiming better ride comfort, stability and handling thanks to the TNGA platform I mentioned earlier.
The 1.8-litre hybrid version is already well known to us but the new 2-litre should put a bit more pep in the step with its 180bhp powerbase – a lot of punch for a small family car.
And, as if to underline its potential performance, this version will have paddles on the steering wheel.
The Camry saloon doesn’t get here until the first week of April, though pricing will be published on October 18, like the others.
As of now, more than 550 drivers here have expressed an interest in the car.
The “challenge”, Toyota say, will be to match demand with the 300 to 400 cars they can get next year.
The large saloon has a newly developed 2.5 litre hybrid engine and total power of 218hp.
Toyota Ireland chief executive Steve Tormey says 2019 represents a “new era” for the brand here – in terms, one surmises, of going so definitively down the hybrid route and doing without new diesel cars.
Hybrid now accounts for 52pc of their total car sales and they expect the new quartet to significantly increase that number next year as, he says, “more and more drivers naturally migrate away from diesel”.