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Cool change: Toyota Australia senior executive vice president John Conomos hints the next-generation Camry will be more adventurously styled than the current model.

Toyota says its future products will have more appeal for youthful, style-conscious buyers

Toyota logo19 Mar 2001

TOYOTA Australia plans to distance itself from its image as a conservative car-maker that produces "whitegoods", senior executive vice-president John Conomos said. Speaking at the launch of the Sportivo variants of the Echo and Corolla last week, Mr Conomos said the company's future offerings would have more pizzazz than has been the case in the past.

"Toyota is experimenting with more youthful, aggressive products - the WiLL Vi is an example," he said.

The Camry perhaps best exemplifies the "cardigan and slippers" image sometimes associated with the brand. But Mr Conomos hinted the next generation Camry, due to be unveiled at the Tokyo motor show in October, would be less conservative than the current model.

"Watch this space - no more fridges," he promised.

The next generation Camry is expected to go on sale here in mid-2002, powered by a new four-cylinder engine - a 2.4-litre unit that meets the stringent Step 2 emission requirements.

Toyota is expected to gain approval this week to invest $50 million in upgrading its four-cylinder engine factory at Altona.

The Altona plant, which has been building four-cylinder engines since the 1960s, needs a new powerplant that will meet imminent US and European emission standards to maximise its export potential.

Mr Conomos said Toyota Australia expected to export 50,000 Camrys this year - compared with about 45,000 last year.

He suggested Toyota Australia would like to supplement Camry exports by seeking offshore markets for the next iteration of the Avalon, but said this would mean competing with the parent company, which already exports a newer version of the car.

The Camry and Avalon are likely to be supplemented in 2003 by a third product line that uses the same platform.

Most industry observers suggest this vehicle will be an all-wheel-drive "soft-roader".

"A decision on a third product line for Altona will be made in 18 months," Mr Conomos said.

Meanwhile, Toyota's January 1 price rise will be followed by another increment ranging from 1.5 to 4 per cent on April 1, according to Mr Conomos.

"We will have price rise of 10 per cent by the end of the year if the exchange rate stays where it is," Mr Conomos said.

As for retaining market leadership in 2001, Mr Conomos said it would be an uphill battle.

"We haven't given up the sales race, but it will be very difficult. We are 4000 units behind (Holden) already," he said.

Mr Conomos said Toyota would achieve between 150,000 and 160,000 (passenger car and commercial) sales this year - compared with 156,366 last year.

Sporting chance THE launch of the Sportivo Echo and Corolla is the first sign Toyota Australia is serious about having its own in-house rival to HSV and Tickford.

Toyota's Conversions and Motorsport division (T-CAM) confined its activities to developing body kits and other components in the past, but the Sportivo models are the first indication of what's in store.

"The overall aim with the Sportivo models was to test systems," Toyota Australia senior executive vice-president John Conomos said.

"Our high-performance division is in the process of evolution. The long-term plan is to develop that division - we wouldn't have started the program otherwise." T-CAM manager Neal Daniel said: "We could do worse than emulating HSV by doing up the Camry. But we are not quite the same as HSV, which is a separate company from Holden." Mr Daniel said there was no plan to develop a Sportivo Camry even though the car had potential to be "tweaked".

"There is scope to fine-tune the Camry's suspension, the Touring set-up is not perfect," he said.

Mr Daniel said a free-flowing exhaust would also be a worthwhile improvement, adding up to 7kW and a "throaty burble".

Unfortunately, a supercharger kit available for US-spec Camrys is not applicable to the right-hand drive version.

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