A radically new Toyota Corolla sedan will start rolling into Canadian dealers in September, trying hard to shake off its ultra-conservative reputation, while increasing in size all the way up into mid-size sedan proportions.
"The new Corolla makes the logical choice feel really, really good," Toyota Canada managing director Stephen Beatty said June 7, at a special unveiling ceremony at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
If that logical choice involves a Corolla-based hatchback, however, there's good news and bad news for fans of the Toyota Matrix. The United States will drop the practical and fuel-efficient Matrix hatchback once the new-generation 2014 Corolla starts arriving this fall, but the Matrix in its current form will continue in Canada for the foreseeable future, Beatty confirmed.
That U.S. decision will likely doom the Matrix's long-term fate, since the vast majority of the roughly 500,000 vehicles built in Canada are destined for the U.S. market, even though the Matrix has always been a solid seller in Canada. However, Toyota Canada has brought in unique vehicles before, such as the Echo hatchback, so there may yet be some hope.
Beatty suggested that vehicles like the Matrix and even the larger Venza are seen as cars in the United States. "And Americans tend to buy sedans, or trucks."
Every Corolla sold in Canada will continue to be built in Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada's North plant in Cambridge, Ont. (the South plant builds the Lexus RX350). The RAV4, as well as its electric-only RAV4 EV (only sold in a couple of U.S. states), are built nearby in Woodstock. By the time the range-topping hybrid RX begins production in Canada early next year, Toyota will have chosen TMMC to produce a number of its significant firsts outside Japan: its first Lexus built outside Japan, Toyota's first pure electric vehicle, and soon its first Lexus hybrid.
That trust in TMMC's technical know-how, backed up by consistently high quality numbers, has led Toyota's Japanese management to designate TMMC in a lead manufacturing role for all the 16 plants around the world that will build the next-generation Corolla, said Brian Krincok, president of TMMC, Toyota Canada's manufacturing unit.
No pricing or fuel economy details are yet available, but the new Corolla will offer two 1.8-litre four-cylinder engines, putting out 132 hp in most versions, and 140 in the top new ECO model. All but the base CE models will offer a continuously variable transmission for the first time, a six-speed manual transmission and, on base models, an outdated but low-cost four-speed automatic. All Corollas will feature standard LED headlamps, while other upscale touches such as heated seats, paddle shifters and a back-up camera will also become available.
Mercedes-Benz fuel-cells pushed back to 2017
The prospective on-sale date for hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles now looks to be 2017, said a high-ranking Mercedes-Benz Canada executive working out of the firm's fuel-cell production facility near Vancouver, though there is still much work that needs to be done before it can go on sale in Canada.
Though the original hope was to bring a production unit to market by 2015, and indeed many test units will be produced at the facility from now until production starts, a joint production agreement with Ford and Nissan has pushed back that potential launch date to 2017, said Klaus Berger, vice-president of the fuel- cell division in Burnaby, BC.
"We hope [to sell a fuel cell vehicle in Canada by 2017], but strong support will be needed," Berger said in a phone interview this week, suggesting the zero-emissions cars powered by pressurized hydrogen that could be filled up as at normal pumps won't be available in the entire country, but that the firm hopes to have enough hydrogen filling stations on the west coast to start, and in Montreal and Toronto as well.
"The question is how do you do it," said Berger, noting that in Europe, the fuel cell infrastructure road is a little more advanced, and has generally followed two paths: government-supported, or industry-supported. "Filling station companies have to show up with alternative fuels, and that can be organized by the authorities, that it must have some type of alternate fuel, or [the fuel station firms] can team up with companies like Daimler and other partners."
Guess who won AJAC Eco-Run?
Twenty-two vehicles set off by a green flag waved by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver June 4 in Ottawa for the 2013 AJAC Eco-Run, a green vehicle rally that concluded two days later with an appearance by Toro Rosso Formula One driver Jean-Eric Vergne just before the start of F1 weekend in Montreal.
It was the second annual Eco-Run put on by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, an event meant to showcase the variety and scope of the latest planet-friendly options out there on the new-car market. Vehicles involved ranged from the small four-seat pure electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV, to the Ford C-Max Hybrid, to the mid-size Mazda6 with SkyActiv, the diesel Chevrolet Cruze, to the full-size Ram 1500 HFE (the two-wheel-drive, V-6, regular cab model designated as the Highest Fuel Efficiency model in the popular 1500's lineup).
It was also meant to highlight that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a new car to save some money at the pump, since "green-ing" your own driving style will save you cash no matter what you drive. To encourage normally "enthusiastic" auto writer types to adopt more planet-friendly if slower driving techniques, AJAC instituted a daily and overall Green Jersey award to those drivers who exhibited the greenest driving techniques.
The overall Green Jersey winner? Yours truly.
All EcoRun drivers took an online course before the event designed to highlight such practices, at ecodrivingonline.ca, which takes about 30 minutes and is available to the public for $25. Reps from CrossChasm used wireless data-logging devices to measure the real-world fuel-consumption of each vehicle, with the results posted in the Eco-Run area of AJAC's website at ajac.ca.
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