Is it a Bird?

Is it a Bird?

By Austin Gamble

When I was young, we loved to play the is it a bird game. To jog your memory, it always started with the question, “Is it a bird, is it a plane?”

The answer was Superman, but with a bit of manipulation, you could go on all day with various themes. This came to mind when I attended the line off ceremony of the first hybrid vehicle to be manufactured in South Africa, on 26 October 2021. The event was held at Toyota South Africa Motors’ (TSAM) production facility in Prospecton, Durban, and was attended by numerous VIPs, with both Andrew Kirby, president and CEO of TSAM, and Cyril Ramaphosa, president of the Republic of South Africa, vying for the role of Superman.

Watching it all unfold, I was wondering, is it a lion, is it a tiger, or is it a whale, is it a tiger, or is it a buffalo, is it a cow, or is it a donkey, is it a zebra. The answers to the above are respectively a liger, a wholphin, a beefalo, and a zedonk. But of course, the real question was is it a car, is it a sewing machine? And the answer was the star of the show, the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.

As the press blurb explains, “TSAM’s newest production line reaffirms the company’s investment commitment to the South African economy and the local automotive sector. Established some 60 years ago, Toyota in South Africa has grown significantly over the years and now manufactures Hilux, Fortuner, Corolla Quest and Hi-ace at its Prospecton Plant, while selected Hino and Dyna models are produced as SKD or semi-knocked-down assemblies.” At the ceremony, Kirby noted that, “If you tally up the investments we’ve made in this plant spanning the last five years – of which Corolla Cross accounts for R2.6 billion, we arrive at a cumulative figure of over R6.5 billion. So, we are therefore committed to further developing and strengthening our business in South Africa and making a difference in the country, our communities, our suppliers, dealers, customers and of course in our own employee’s lives.”

Investment, jobs, supply chain activation, downstream opportunities, etc, abound abundantly, and it marks South Africa’s segue into the new energy vehicle arena, with the new Corolla Cross based on the acclaimed Toyota New Global Architecture platform, or simply the TNGA platform. The introduction of hybrid technology in the Corolla Cross line has required altogether new assembly processes as well as vehicle testing systems, and these are now part of TSAM’s standard operating systems. Kirby says that TSAM has set a “very ambitious” target of selling more Hybrid Corolla Cross models than traditional internal Combustion Engines (ICE) models by 2025. To put this into perspective, in 2020 the local industry only sold 324 New Energy Vehicles (155 of them being HEV, 77 PHEV and 92 BEV), and in 2021 to October only 322 have been sold (169 of them being HEV, 46 PHEV and 107 BEV). Incidentally, most of these have been Lexus models.

With the Corolla Cross, TSAM will employ a two-engine strategy (a 1.8-litre petrol engine and ultra-fuel-efficient 1.8-litre Hybrid), with pricing as follows: Corolla Cross 1.8 Xi - R 349 900; Corolla Cross 1.8 Xs - R 390 100; Corolla Cross 1.8 XR - R 425 400; Corolla Cross 1.8 Hybrid Xs - R 413 000; Corolla Cross 1.8 Hybrid XR - R 448 300. A six-services/90 000 km service plan is standard on all Corolla Cross models, with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty, plus an 8-year warranty on the Hybrid battery. Additional service and warranty plan extensions can be purchased from their nearest Toyota dealer, with a 220-dealer footprint.



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