Toyota Corolla out, New SUV in at Alabama Plant

As previously reported, Toyota and Mazda will build up to 300,000 vehicles annually at a new joint venture assembly plant in Huntsville, Alabama beginning in 2021. While the former initially planned to make Corollas there, changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for SUVs are dictating otherwise.

Toyota has decided to manufacture a new SUV that’s currently not part of the lineup and would reportedly slot between the C-HR sub-compact crossover, available with front-wheel drive only, and the extremely popular RAV4 compact SUV.

This is not like Toyota and Subaru teaming up for a new electric SUV riding on a shared platform. The two models we’re talking about here will be developed independently, the first one based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). Of course, some of their underbody components will be similar in order to simplify operations and benefit from economies of scale.

There is a belief that Toyota's SUV will be the production version of the FT-4X concept introduced at the 2017 New York Auto Show. The name literally stood for “Future Toyota Four-Wheel Drive Crossover.” But instead of a true off-roader like the discontinued FJ Cruiser, it’s expected to be more urban-oriented yet very practical and convenient while projecting a decidedly rugged look.

Photo: Toyota

That sounds a lot like the recipe used for the Jeep Renegade and Ford’s yet-unnamed “Baby Bronco.”

Other highlights of the FT-4X concept included protective cladding, two-tone bodywork with a flat, reinforced roof panel, a dual-opening rear hatch, tow hooks and ultra-short overhangs, while the interior resembled a toolbox with plenty of storage and handy solutions.

More details will be released at a later date with the official reveal likely coming in 2020.

As for the Corolla, production for North America will continue in Blue Springs, Mississippi and of course Cambridge, Ontario.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Mazda’s plans, their new model will possibly mark the return of the CX-7 name as it will fit between the CX-5 and CX-9.

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