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Aussie trim and tuck for Toyota SUV

Rugged: The HiLux-based Fortuner SUV, aimed mainly at Asia and South Africa, will get a facelift designed by Toyota Style Australia.

Toyota’s Asian-focussed Fortuner SUV gets Melbourne makeover

Toyota logo28 Jun 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

A RUGGED HiLux-based SUV aimed mainly at Asia and South Africa will get a distinctly Aussie face, thanks to designers at Melbourne-based Toyota Style Australia (TSA).

The facelifted Fortuner that is set to roll off the Toyota Thailand production line in the next two weeks was the responsibility of TSA manager Paul Beranger and his team who are also working on other Toyota products for the Asia-Pacific region.

The task was small compared with the global ground-up projects being masterminded by rivals GM Holden and Ford Australia, but Mr Beranger told GoAuto that TSA was seeking to grow its business in the region.

The Fortuner – launched in 2005 – is one of four IMV (HiLux) variants, with the others being the single-cab, extended-cab and dual-cab HiLux ute models that are also made in Thailand.

Apart from Thailand, the 4x4 and 4x2 wagon is sold in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Middle East, South Africa and Central and South America. In Indonesia, it is badged Kijang Innova.

Although it is similar in concept to the Triton-based Mitsubishi Challenger and Navara-based Nissan Pathfinder, there are no plans to bring it to Australia, where Toyota is happy with its Japanese-built Kluger and Prado wagons.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota Style Australia manager Paul Beranger, the updated Toyota HiLux is revealed in Melbourne, Toyota HiLux 'Vigo'.

The Fortuner facelift took TSA about 15 months and was signed off last year.

Mr Beranger said the revised Fortuner would share some elements of the new-look HiLux that is set to be shown this week at the Australian International Motor in Melbourne from Friday ahead of its roll out in Australian showrooms later this year.

He said the Fortuner gets the HiLux’s new bonnet – with its repositioned diesel air scoop – and front fenders, but fresh and unique front fascia, as well as new rear bumper, tail lights and other pieces.

Mr Beranger said the new HiLux – new forward of the windscreen – had been designed elsewhere, but his team had liaised with the HiLux team.

He said the it was a reasonable assumption that Toyota had designed the latest HiLux to be “less truck-like, less massive”, but he said Toyota had to retain the rugged appeal of the top-selling ute in Australia.

“We have to make sure we don’t walk away from our current customers while we continue to attract new people into the brand,” he said.

“People still want the HiLux to be rugged and unbreakable, but they also want it to be versatile to meet passenger car needs.

“From the passenger car perspective, it is more about the inside than the outside – they want the comfort, they want the features and style a passenger car offers because a lot of these people use them as a passenger car.”

The HiLux dual-cab that will make its debut in the flesh at the show on Friday has blacked out windows to discourage peeks at the new interior, which is yet to be revealed.

But asked if the cabin would be more car-like, in line with the softened exterior, Mr Beranger said: “It is moving in that direction, yes.”

Mr Beranger said TSA was continuing to do design work for Toyota in Asia.

“Our further growth is in this region, and we are making a big effort to look at a range of regional products – get involved in that – and support the growth in that area.”

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