Posted: 05/16/07 04:12 PM
New Highlander Is “Core” At Toyota
Crossover emerges from redo with V-6 only, hybrid.
While Toyota's upstart Scion brand, its new Tundra pickup truck and its growing lineup of hybrids have grabbed most of the company's headlines in the past year, Toyota says it's products like the new 2008 Highlander that form the core of its brand.
The Highlander bowed in 2001 and since then, Toyota executives said at a press preview of the new vehicle in Arizona , that ten new nameplates have been introduced in the same niche, including vehicles like the new Hyundai Veracruz .
To stay competitive in a growing niche, Toyota has moved the Highlander slightly upscale and has tried to build a more "forceful and compelling" vehicle than the first-generation Highlander. To that end, the new Highlander is significantly bigger than the vehicle it replaces, and more sophisticated inside, Toyota says.
The new Highlander also loses its four-cylinder engine in its progress upscale. Leaving the lower end of the niche to the new RAV4 crossover, the new Highlander returns with a 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 hp and a hybrid version with an identical power output.
In all, Toyota expects to sell just more than 130,000 Highlanders in the U.S. in the 2008 calendar year, with 28,000 of those sales going to the new Hybrid model. That number could rise in 2010, when Toyota opens a new plant near Tupelo, Miss., which will build gas-powered Highlanders. Hybrid models, under the current plan, would still be built in Toyota's plant in Kyushu, Japan.
Toyota 's busy product plan for this year includes the Highlander and the Highlander Hybrid, along with new versions of the Corolla sedan and Matrix wagon, as well as the big Land Cruiser sport-utility vehicle.