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Toyota Kirloskar mulls Corolla variants

S. Muralidhar

CHENNAI, Feb. 6

TOYOTA Kirloskar Motor (TKM), the joint venture subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation, Japan, is mulling the launch of two variants of the Toyota Corolla, even as the top end mid-size car, its latest introduction, is being nationally rolled out this week. The new variants could feature a smaller 1.6-litre petrol engine and the other is likely to be a two-litre diesel engine version.

Talking to Business Line at the launch of the Toyota Corolla, Mr Atsushi Toyoshima, Managing Director of TKM, said that the company is looking at the option of introducing a diesel engine version. "We are working on the customer feedback that is being collated, we have the capability and the right kind of diesel engine for introducing such a version of the Corolla,'' Mr Toyoshima said. He, however, declined to give a time-frame within which such a diesel driven Corolla may be launched. However, industry observers feel that the company will most likely introduce a diesel version and another variant of the petrol-driven Corolla with a smaller 1.6 litre engine within the next one year.

The price segment (the high-end of the C-segment) at which the Corolla has been positioned is populated by the likes of the Mitsubishi Lancer, Opel Astra and the Skoda Octavia.

A majority of each of these vehicles sold are diesel versions, especially in South India.

Speaking about the company's plans, in the light of this southern preference for diesels, Mr Toyoshima also said that the lure of lower running costs seems to abet the choice.

He added that as long as the price differential exists between the two fuels, the attraction to go in for the diesel version would remain in the consumer's mind. The TKM Managing Director also mentioned that the company would wait to factor in any changes that may be announced in the Budget before a decision is taken in favour of the diesel version.

Currently, the Toyota Corolla being rolled out nationally features a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, sixteen valve, double overhead camshaft (DOHC) VVT-I engine. The engine, which features Toyota's own variable valve timing technology, generates 125 HP of power, while simultaneously offering class leading fuel economy, company officials said.

Toyota already offers the Corolla with diesel engine options in other countries. In Asia, the two-litre diesel engine option is offered in Pakistan, with the reasons for making it available in that country being similar to India - differential fuel pricing.

The four-door Corolla sedan being launched now has been spruced up externally and has also been tuned to take on Indian climatic and road conditions.

However, the Corolla being launched here is the 2002 version, which is also the model available in most other Asian countries. The newer 2003 version is available in Hong Kong, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Elaborating on Toyota Motor Corporation's plans for sourcing components from India, Mr Toyoshima said that Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts, the 90:10 joint venture between the Japanese company and the Kirloskars will supply transmissions, and possibly other components too at a later stage, for the requirements of over two dozen Toyota vehicles in eight countries.

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