Toyota Australia has confirmed that it will add the Hilux-based Fortuner seven-seat off-roader to its broad range of SUV offerings in the near future.
Speaking with TMR at the local reveal of the all-new Hilux utility, Toyota Australia sales chief Tony Cramb revealed that approval has finally been given to bring the Fortuner to local showrooms.
With sales slowly rising in the body-on-frame seven-seat SUV segment currently populated by the Holden Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Challenger, the Fortuner’s arrival will allow Toyota to capitalise on growing demand for more rugged family-sized offroaders.
The segment will grow even further in the near future, with the coming debut of Ford's new Ranger-based Everest SUV.
“It’s definitely a space we want to compete in,” Cramb said to TMR.
“I’ve previously confirmed that we definitely want something, but what I can confirm today is that [Fortuner] has been made available to us.
“I can’t confirm or deny [launch timing] at the moment but we’ve at least got agreement that we can have the vehicle. It’s great news.”
But while approval has been given, there’s still work to be done before the Fortuner can go on sale here.
“We’ve been at it [prepping business case] for a while,” he said.
“What we now have to do is finalise the arrangements and get it all sorted. You will, one day, see the Fortuner in Australia.”
While Cramb wouldn’t elaborate on precisely when we’ll see it, the anticipated late-2015 reveal of the new Fortuner (which will be built in Thailand alongside the newly revealed 2016 Hilux) means a local launch in the first half of next year is the likely scenario.
Local specifications are also yet to be revealed, but a diesel/petrol powertrain lineup similar to that of the new Hilux range wouldn’t be out of the question.
Leaked photos of what appears to be a dealer presentation (pictured) shows the 2016 Fortuner in full, revealing a design that's sharper and more carlike than the utilitarian and obviously Hilux-based styling of the current model (below).
However, while the styling is sleeker, the Fortuner's bones will stay true to its bulletproof body-on-frame roots.
A coil-sprung rear axle will likely be the only major chassis difference between the new Fortuner and the Hilux.
It's not clear whether Toyota will offer the Fortuner in both RWD and 4WD guise, however.
While the Isuzu MU-X is available in both configurations, both the Challenger and Colorado 7 have switched to being 4WD-only offerings.
Expect the Fortuner to be priced in the same region as its $40-50k competitors, making it a more affordable option than its companion, the Prado, which, in seven-seat form, begins at $58,490 plus on-road costs.
Of its key ute-based rivals, Isuzu's MU-X is the clear leader in 2015 with 1929 year-to-date sales, up from 1033 for the same period in 2014.
The Mitsubishi Challenger follows in a distant second with 799 sales, although this too is an improvement on the 633 achieved over the same period last year.
The Isuzu's platform mate, the Colorado 7, is not far behind the Challenger, with 737 sales year-to-date, against 517 by the end of April last year.
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