Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) is investigating the possibility of manufacturing a new passenger car at its Prospecton plant, in Durban.
“We are seeking the opportunity to produce something more affordable,” says TSAM CEO Andrew Kirby.
This model would, most likely, not be produced for export markets, and will be one targeted at emerging markets, such as South Africa.
“Nothing has been finalised,” Kirby warns. “No decision has been made yet. “We are investigating a couple of models. We are immersed in a global process of allocating resources [within Toyota].”
He says the “sluggish” South African and African economies are “making it difficult to justify such investments”.
The Durban plant currently produces the Fortuner sports utility vehicle, the Hilux bakkie and the Quantum minibus, as well as the Corolla sedan and its less expensive sibling, the Corolla Quest.
One of TSAM’s most popular passenger cars on sale in the local market, the budget hatchback Etios, is imported from India. The Etios was launched in India in 2010.
While the Corolla has fared well in South Africa, larger C-segment sales have been declining in favour of smaller, more affordable cars.
Kirby says TSAM could, perhaps, continue production of one Corolla model, and then add another, new passenger car model to the same assembly line.
The Corolla line is “not near capacity”, he notes.
When installed, the assembly line was to build Corollas for export to Australia and Europe, which had since ceased, owing largely to competitive pressures within the Japanese automaker.
Today, TSAM exports the Fortuner, the Hilux and the Corolla to the rest of Africa, with the Hilux also going to Europe. The Quantum is produced exclusively for the local market.
Capacity at the Durban plant is 220 000 units a year, with plant production currently at around 150 000 units.