Remember when Toyota was the market leader in the non-national market? You won’t have to jog your mind too far back – the Japanese carmaker last topped the sales charts in 2014, and was still vying with Honda for the title until the last month of last year, ultimately losing its long-held crown to its closest rival.
So imagine our surprise when we found out just a month later that the rug had unceremoniously been pulled under Toyota’s feet. Almost every brand struggled to sell cars in the first quarter of 2016, but the world’s largest carmaker was probably hit hardest – as of March, the company sold just 10,216 vehicles, putting it not just well behind Honda, but behind Nissan as well.
The disappointing performance came about mainly as a result of a significant price hike (due to the depreciating ringgit), but an ageing lineup could be blamed as well – this despite the launch of the facelifted Camry, Avanza and Rush, as well as the tax-exempt Camry Hybrid in 2015. Toyota’s increasingly unfashionable image – particularly among our readers – probably didn’t help matters, either.
Tasked to reverse its fortunes are the new 2016 Toyota Hilux and Fortuner, both launched today. These are very important vehicles for the brand in Malaysia, particularly the Hilux – the ubiquitous pick-up forms the backbone of Toyota’s commercial vehicle range and makes up a significant chunk of its overall sales.
Both the new Hilux and Fortuner are built on a new platform and come with completely revised looks and engines, as well as a smattering of new equipment and safety kit. The competition has really stepped up the game over the past few years, so it’s great to see that Toyota has finally come to the table armed to the teeth.
But the new trucks will have a mountain to climb to tackle a vastly different market from the one their predecessors entered more than a decade ago. Will they be good enough to keep up with the times and, more importantly, revitalise Toyota’s sales? We take both on a quick spin in Malaysia – both on- and off-road – to find out if they have promise.