BANGKOK – Toyota and Isuzu plan to import new, seven-seat SUVs to Europe from developing countries.
The Japanese manufacturers aim to win more sales in the region’s booming SUV market.
Toyota will import its all-new Fortuner SUV to Europe from South Africa starting in mid-2005.
Isuzu will double its one-model lineup in European markets by adding its new MU-7 SUV to the region.
The Fortuner will not compete with Toyota’s existing SUVs including the RAV 4 and the Land Cruiser but would “open a totally new segment,” said Akira Okabe, Toyota’s managing officer in charge of Asia, Oceania and Middle East operations.
Toyota is targeting the Fortuner at families who want a large vehicle that can cope with urban and country driving.
“SUVs have become Europe’s latest symbol of modern urban mobility and the segment is showing continuous growth,” said Okabe.
The Fortuner, which is based on the Hilux Vigo pickup, was introduced in Thailand in November.
It is being built in Thailand, Argentina and South Africa as part of Toyota’s IMV – International Multi-Purpose Vehicle – project. IMV will be a global production and supply network for pickup and multi-purpose vehicles.
Production of the five IMV models, which also include three new pickups and a new minivan, is expected to reach 500,000 units at the main IMV plants in 2006.
Half of the projected 60,000-unit production at Toyota’s South Africa plant is scheduled for export to Europe, South America and the rest of Africa.
Isuzu will export the MU-7 to Southeast Asian countries starting in April, then to the Middle East and Europe in the second half of 2005.
The MU-7, based on the D-Max pickup, was introduced in November in Thailand, where it is built.
Isuzu sells only the D-Max in Europe.
The SUV answers European dealers’ pleas calling for Isuzu to broaden its lineup.