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Toyota calls it the hybrid invasion as it unveils the latest models to turn to the joint propulsion hybrid strategy as diesel models get the chop. The company has long been an advocate of hybrid technology and now we have one of Ireland’s favourite cars, the Corolla, joining the growing list of hybrid models coming to our shores this year.

Michael Gaynor, marketing director for Toyota here, is forecasting a very rapid decline for diesel models (Toyota is, of course, no longer selling new diesel cars) and says that the recent 1pc VRT increase on diesels is likely to be only the beginning of further penalties in the future.

“Future city bans on diesel cars are inevitable and don’t be surprised if we see Dublin follow other EU cities in the near future,” he forecast at the launch of five new hybrid models – the Corolla saloon, Corolla hatchback, Corolla Sports Touring, the Camry and the RAV4.

Toyota says that the fourth generation of hybrids in these models will beat any equivalent diesel on a long journey and claims that hybrid will be the preferred route for buyers over the next five years before EVs become a credible mass market option.

The Irish company believes that hybrids and plug-in hybrids will continue to sell even after the Government’s declared deadline that only EVs can be sold here after 2030. The company plans to launch 10 new EVs by the 2020s when it believes that the charging points infrastructure and battery technology for longer range mobility will have improved.

Toyota’s hybridisation strategy started over 20 years ago and has gained traction since 2015 when hybrid became the centre of strategic planning. Since then, the hybrid mix has grown from 6pc to more than 53pc in 2018. The current mix for Toyota is 31pc petrol and 16pc diesel but the forecast as we head into a new year sales drive is for 80pc hybrid and 20pc petrol sales.

Other thoughts from the Toyota camp are that there seems to be renewed interest in saloon models generally, which had taken a hit because of the surge in SUV sales and that, contrary to perception, rural Ireland is driving the swing to hybrid sales, citing Co Offaly as having recorded 142pc, the biggest percentage increase during 2018.

For 2019, Toyota aims to become the number one car seller here and the company is confident of achieving this, although the production of sufficient hybrid models is under pressure all over the EU. Currently, there are 1,000 orders for the new arrivals and 8,000 test drives are pending as the date for the new models to arrive in the showrooms draws nearer.

The first of the new hybrid models to arrive is the RAV4 tomorrow, the Corolla hatchback on January 16, the Corolla saloon and Corolla Sports Touring in mid-February and the eagerly awaited Camry, making its return to the Irish market after an absence of 14 years, on April 4.

The new Corolla will be the big seller and looks smart and is bigger than the outgoing model with more legroom, a wheelbase as big as the outgoing Avensis, and a higher level of specification and safety features.

Prices start at €27,600 for the 1.8-litre hybrid which will be over €1,000 more than the outgoing 1.4 diesel model.

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