Toyota Corolla reverses course to one platform

The Corolla hatchback hits U.S. showrooms this summer. The outgoing Corolla is actually three different cars on three different platforms.

OYAMA, Japan — Toyota Motor Corp. has a problem to fix on one of the most successful vehicles in its history.

The worldwide popularity of the Corolla pulled Toyota into creating different architectures for different markets in recent years. And now, as it prepares to launch the car’s 12th generation, Toyota needs to bring all variances back into a single global architecture.

The outgoing 11th-generation is actually three different cars on three different platforms.

That finally changes with the introduction of the Corolla hatchback that hits U.S. showrooms this summer. It is the lead model for a new family of Corollas, including an upcoming sedan and wagon, that will all be based off the same completely re-engineered global platform.

“The concept is now ‘Global One Corolla,’ ” Corolla Chief Engineer Yoshiki Konishi said during a test drive of the hatchback here at Fuji Speedway west of Tokyo.

Migrating all versions of the Corolla to the Toyota New Global Architecture platform is an important evolution for the compact. It will help build brand value and marketing power and simplify product engineering as well as help achieve better economies of scale.

But it also is testing Toyota’s manufacturing acumen by requiring the company to quickly convert all 16 of its Corolla plants worldwide to the TNGA production setup.



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Toyota will have to overhaul lines at the plants within two years, Konishi said. It’s believed to be the first time Toyota has undertaken such a swift and expansive upgrade.

Toyota didn’t offer a price tag for the global campaign. But a look at U.S. preparation offers a peek. In April, Toyota said it would invest $170 million at its Blue Springs, Miss., assembly plant to build the 12th-generation Corolla sedan, creating 400 jobs over the following 12 months.

Multiply that outlay by 16, and the expense could easily exceed $1 billion.

Konishi: It’s now “Global One Corolla.”

The outgoing Corolla is a mishmash of unrelated vehicles.

There is the old hatchback geared toward Europe and previously sold in the U.S. as the Scion iM. But that model rides on a different platform from the Corolla sedan sold in the U.S. and China. And those cars, in turn, differ completely from the Japan-market sedan and wagon.

Cars emblazoned with the Corolla name are sold in 154 countries, and Toyota likes to claim that every 10 seconds, a new Corolla is delivered to a customer somewhere in the world.

Throughout its history, the Corolla mostly shared the same platform across the diverse regions where it was sold. But starting with the 11th generation in 2012, when Toyota was swept by a new mantra to localize products, the Corolla became a bit of a split personality.

“We shifted to use three types of platforms for Corolla sedan — for Japan, North America-China and Europe — so that we could better correspond to various customer or regulation needs, depending on the country,” Toyota spokesman Aaron Fowles said.

Now, the pendulum has swung back the other way with the arrival of the international-minded TNGA platform, where the G stands for “global.”

The new Corolla is the third vehicle to ride on the TNGA-C platform, after the Prius hybrid and the C-HR subcompact crossover.

“Previously, people expected different cars in different regions,” Konishi said. “But recently, regional demand and needs have been converging and getting closer.”

In the grand scheme, moving to the TNGA platform is supposed to save costs while delivering better performance through clever engineering and better specifications. But shifting the extended family of Corolla nameplates to a single platform won’t initially save much money.

The new version is less costly than the outgoing variant for Europe. But it costs roughly the same as the old U.S. and China version. And it costs more than the cut-rate Japan version.

Konishi is uniquely experienced to shepherd the latest global Corolla.

As chief engineer of the C-HR, he built experience with the TNGA setup. He also started as chief engineer of the Corolla during the 11th generation to understand its ins and outs.

Toyota sells about 1.3 million Corollas a year worldwide and expects that number to be roughly the same with the new generation. About 80 percent are sold in the U.S. and China.