It may be one of the less popular models with automotive journalists, but the Toyota Corolla continues to ring up strong sales. That said, the Japanese maker also knows it can’t wait much longer to bring in a replacement for the aging compact model as competitors from Japan, Korea and the U.S. continue to chip away at Corolla’s once-solid grip on the segment.
The automaker gave a hint of what’s to come in January when it rolled out the Toyota Corolla Furia Concept, a sharp-edged show car that was intended to pick up on the Japanese giant’s increasing focus on “passionate” design. But for those who expected to see the production Corolla roll into the Jacob Javits convention center for the New York Auto Show, the production Corolla proved a no-show.
At a separate industry conference in New York, Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter did confirm the new Corolla is on the way, however, confirming the unveiling will occur “somewhere in the U.S.,” while also hinting that the well-anticipated event will occur before the next big American auto show in Los Angeles in November.
A spokesman later explained that it is not always possible to time key product launches to meet the schedule of the auto show circuit. Toyota isn’t alone in that thinking. During his keynote speech at the New York International Auto Show last week, Ford’s global marketing czar Jim Farley noted the maker has recently skipped the auto show route with launches including the latest Explorer, which he called “a really big learning experience,” and something that it will repeat with some other models in the future.
In fact, a growing number of manufacturers are finding there are opportunities to create stand-alone events where they don’t have to compete for attention with other brands – as can occur at a show like New York, where two dozen models debuted, or Detroit, where the count is usually more than 50. Occasionally, makers will tap into smaller car shows that might otherwise make no news except on the local level, such as the one in Miami. Ford has turned to the annual Texas State Fair for some big truck announcements in the past.
So, where might the 2014 Toyota Corolla launch? Beyond making it clear a U.S. introduction is at hand, with Toyota almost certain to want it in place by early in the coming model-year, that’s the big question.
Or, at least, one of them. Another issue is just how much of the distinctive Toyota Corolla Furia Concept details will remain once the production car emerges. In years past, the Asian maker has had a tendency to sand off the sharp edges of its concepts and return to familiar vanilla styling. But CEO Akio Toyoda has promised to put more “passion” into Toyota products, the new Avalon sedan being perhaps the best example.
Going that route could be particularly important considering the emphasis competitors such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra have taken. And Toyota planners can’t have missed the drubbing Honda took with the launch of the Civic two years ago – the poorly received design forcing Honda to pull together an “emergency refresh” that just recently came to market.
Spanish for “fury,” the Furia show car was more angular than the current, rounded out Corolla, with distinctive design elements such as the honeycomb headlight assembly, carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler, pronounced fender flares and ultra-bright LED taillamps.
At 106.3 inches, it had a wheelbase nearly four inches longer than the outgoing Corolla, with the total length stretched about two inches, to 181.9 inches. It measured nearly two inches wider, at 71.0 inches, but was also lower, at 56.1 inches compared to the 2013 compact’s 57.7 inches.
Toyota will clearly have solid momentum when the replacement Corolla comes to market but the wave of new competitors will also take every shot they can at the next-generation offering. So, it’s no surprise the world’s best-selling automaker doesn’t want to wait to get its new model into the ring.