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THE Toyota Corolla made its debut in November 1966 in Japan as a 1.0-litre compact five-seater saloon and within two years, doubled its annual production from 480,000 to 1.1 million vehicles.

Its introduction was a catalyst for mass car ownership in Japan and the rest of Asia.

There was no looking back, and its sales grew from strength to strength over the past 55 years.

This month, the Corolla celebrated a spectacular global sales milestone of 50 million cars.

This milestone underscores the robust confidence and belief in the Corolla’s build quality, reliability, safety and durability.

Now in its 12th generation, it is Toyota’s most recognised model and one of the world’s top-selling cars.

In 1966, Toyota’s then chief engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa was adamant that the Corolla must encompass features that bring happiness and well-being to people around the world. Toyota has continued to hold fast to this philosophy over these last 55 years.

The Corolla then evolved through 12 generations from 1966, with each generation offering more advanced features than the previous.

Available in more than 150 countries around the world, the Corolla is regarded as a “well-loved member of the family”. It continues to serve faithfully and dependably for different purposes – from reliable family car to covering long commute distances and as a fun, sporty choice customised to changing customer lifestyles.

About one out of every five Toyotas made was a Corolla. This model has evolved and its various iterations the world over have exceeded expectations in terms of driving pleasure and performance, safety, aesthetics, technology, reliability and durability.

With each generation, Corolla engineers and designers at Toyota Motor Corporation have strived to incorporate cutting edge features, like improving interior cabin ergonomics and connectivity features.

This included the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) in the 12th generation in 2019 that has further optimised the performance and marketability of every model and Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), Toyota’s proprietary suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features like Lane Tracing Assist.

Corolla in Asia

Millions of motorists in Asia have enjoyed and appreciated the Corolla from its early genesis. For many, the Corolla has been a centrepiece in the building of “treasured memories”.

A common sentiment from many Corolla owners, regardless of country or region, is that many choose to keep their Corolla or replace it with another Corolla.

There are many stories of Corolla fans owning multiple generations of the model since its 1966 launch. One customer in Pakistan, where the Corolla has been hugely popular, has owned six generations of Corolla!

Die-hard fans in Singapore, where the model has been a perennial favourite since 1967, have formed their own clubs. In fact, the Corolla makes about a third of all Toyota sales there between 2015 and 2020.

The 12th generation Corolla took top spot as Singapore’s favourite saloon in 2019, thanks to its hybrid options and cutting edge TSS feature.

The Corolla market in Malaysia has seen continued growth since it was first launched in 1968. Motorists in Malaysia have been consistently positive about this model since it was introduced. More than 40,000 units of the 10th generation Corolla were sold in Malaysia between 2006 and 2013.

In the Philippines, many Corolla owners have driven their fuel-efficient and very reliable cars over long distances in the archipelago. One of them drives a vintage model, which was semi-restored as his wedding car!

Going green(er)

Toyota is very much committed to achieving zero CO2 emissions and a net positive environmental impact towards the future. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 35% or more by 2030.

Among Toyota models, the Corolla offers hybrid electric options that provide all the torque and acceleration needed on everyday driving and highways. It is drawing from the leadership of Toyota in electrification technology since the launch of the Prius Hybrid 21 years ago.

The 11th generation Corolla, introduced in 2012 was the first model to offer hybrid electric options. Today, Corolla fans can choose from a variety of hybrid and internal combustion drivetrains.

Toyota may consider hydrogen-powered vehicles as a viable alternative to our current electrified options. Toyota president Akio Toyoda races under the alias “Morizo”, drove Rookie Racing’s hydrogen-powered Corolla Sport in 24-hour endurance races in May and Aug 2021.

Toyoda founded Rookie Racing as a “family-like professional team” to create “ever-better cars” with Toyota Gazoo Racing through motorsports.

The Rookie Racing Corolla Sport used hydrogen combustion to power its 1.6-litre inline three-cylinder engine. In May it completed 385 laps at an average speed of 67km/h.

This month, various improvements were achieved from approximately 40% quicker refuelling and 15% increase in torque.

The hydrogen-powered engine is an internal combustion technology that emits virtually zero CO2. Toyota envisages that cars could potentially use this technology to offer more sustainable, carbon-neutral solutions in the future. This is different from the hydrogen fuel-cell powered Mirai, which adopts a different technology that generates electricity from chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

Cross-ing into new era

Over the past 55 years, the Corolla has been available in different variations. In Asia, the most popular Corolla option is the four-door saloon.

Now, in response to changing lifestyles, Toyota has introduced an SUV to the Corolla line-up to seamlessly satisfy diverse customer needs, with a full menu of advanced features in safety, performance and comfort.

Based on the “Corolla Meets SUV” concept, the Corolla Cross signals the transition to a new era of changing consumer preferences. This new model was globally introduced in Thailand last year.

Since its launch, demand has been strong for both the petrol and hybrid electric engine models, as the car comes with its renowned TNGA.

Corolla Cross offers cutting-edge performance, coupled with TSS that ensures complete peace of mind.

Cambodia launched the Corolla Cross early this year. This has further elevated the status of Corolla, first introduced as a saloon in the country in 1993.

The new Corolla SUV has given the Corolla line-up added appeal, especially after the 12th generation Corolla launched in 2019, today regarded as one of the most preferred car choices in Cambodia.

The Corolla Cross is available in other Asia markets including Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

While its rich heritage and history that have kept the Corolla grounded with the same values that it was founded on, Toyota looks ahead to pursue constant kaizen or continuous improvement.

Trivia: Toyota says that the Corolla is named after the ring of petals around the central part of a flower (which is considered to be the most beautiful part of a flower). The name was intended to evoke “the image of a beautifully styled, eye-catching, high-quality compact car”.

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