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by Tim Beissmann

The next-generation Toyota Fortuner that is being developed in Australia is a chance to join the growing fleet of ute-based off-road SUVs in local showrooms, according to the car maker’s sales boss.

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb confirmed the local division is eyeing the new, second-generation version of the HiLux-based Fortuner, which expected to launch globally from 2016.

Reflecting on the increasing popularity of SUVs in Australia – yesterday’s release of 2014’s official VFACTS figures revealed SUV sales increased 5.6 per cent in a market that declined 2.0 per cent overall – Cramb said Toyota would seriously consider the Fortuner for its future line-up.

“[Fortuner] is definitely something that would fit that SUV growth, so it’s a vehicle that we would have to consider and would be very appealing to a market like this,” Cramb said.

“We do have Kluger and Prado, but there’s definitely a case to say that the Fortuner would work well here in Australia.

“The vehicle is going to be developed. Whether we can secure it into Australia is the ongoing dialogue.”

toyota-fortuner

Though similar in size to the Kluger and Prado, the Fortuner will be more capable off-road than the former and cheaper and more car-like than the latter, presenting an appealing niche for the brand.

Coming standard with seven seats, it would compete with the likes of the ute-based Holden Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Challenger, which between them raked up almost 8000 sales in 2014. If introduced, it would also do battle with the Australian-designed and -engineered Ford Everest, which will reach our shores around the final quarter of this year.

The new Fortuner (current model pictured above) will inherit its drivetrains and basic underpinnings from the eighth-generation HiLux that will be unveiled in the coming months and is expected – but as yet not confirmed – to go on sale locally before the end of the year.

The duo will also share basic exterior and interior design cues. HiLux spy shots captured last year (pictured top) revealed a squarer front end with sharper headlights and an upright, slatted grille, while the cabin is set to become far more sophisticated and car-like than that of the outgoing HiLux workhorse.




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