When a new generation of the world’s best selling car, and of the best selling cars of all times (accounts differ) rolls off the line at its factory, then this is usually a big deal. This time, it’s a smaller deal. The 11th generation Corolla that started production today at Toyota’s new plant near Sendai in Japan’s tsunami-ravaged north, is a little shorter than its predecessor. It breaks a tradition of carbloat.
Nevertheless, the new Corolla offers more. It offers it on the inside. Despite the fact that the car has lost two inches outside, the rear passengers are presented with an inch and a half in legroom. The turning radius also has shrunk a bit, which is appreciated in those tight Japanese parking lots and cramped garages.
In Japan, “Corolla” slowly morphs into a brand in its own right, with “Toyota Corolla” branded dealer channels and multitudes of Corolla models. Today, I saw a new JDM Corolla Axio (the sedan) and its station wagon sibling, the Corolla Fielder. Don’t run to your dealer just yet to buy the car that Toyota has shrunk. That 11h gen Corolla is for the Japanese market only. The Corolla Axio that took the stage today was in some kind of beige – not a derogatory color in Japan. In any case, it wasn’t beige, it was “melo shilubar,” or “mellow silver” in English (who said Japanese is hard?)
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda today dashed hopes, voiced by a reporter of a Sendai newspaper, that the new gen Toyota built near Sendai will be an export hit: “The Corollas destined for foreign markets are produced at the Tokuoka and Higashi Fuji plants.” To lift spirits in Sendai, Toyoda promised that “some may be shipped to New Zealand.”
Akio Toyoda today added two important tidbits to the storied history of the Corolla:
- The official total of all Corollas made worldwide stands at 39 million as of today, Toyoda said. Not “over 40 million sold as of 2007,” as Wikipedia claims. 39 million as of today. Source: The boss himself.
- The first car Akio Toyoda paid for himself “was a pre-owned 4th generation Corolla 1600 GT,” Akio Toyoda admitted today. Just one of the guys.