Toyota is scrapping plans to add Corolla production at the new Huntsville, Ala., factory it’s building with Mazda and will manufacture a --- you guessed it – new SUV there instead.
Although Corolla sales remain solid in the compact car segment, and are down just 5 percent in the first half of 2019, the automaker has read the tea leaves and knows the market is continuing to shift towards trucks and utility vehicles.
Toyota already has six distinct SUV models in its lineup, and it hasn’t yet confirmed where the new one will fit. However, speculation in the automotive media is that it will be a production version of the striking FT-4X concept unveiled at the New York Auto Show in 2017.
The FT-4X is an off-road inspired subcompact crossover along the lines of a Jeep Renegade that’s smaller than a Rav4. It features boxy styling and is loaded with clever features, including a split tailgate that can either be opened like barn doors or a hatchback, a sliding rear load floor with a storage compartment underneath, a sleeping bag that doubles as the center armrest and door handles that can be used as removable water bottles. When it debuted, Toyota suggested that it would have a four-cylinder engine and an all-wheel-drive system with a Low setting to enhance its off-road capability if it ever went on sale.
Ford has a similar vehicle in the works that has come to be known as the “Baby Bronco” and is scheduled to go on sale next year, about the same time as whatever Toyota has cooking.
Mazda had previously said it will build an SUV at the facility on its own platform, but hasn’t given any indication about what size or style it will be.
Toyota will continue to build the Corolla at its plant in Mississippi.
This story has been updated to clarify that the Mazda would be built on a separate platform