Speaking exclusively with CarAdvice, TTC-AU president Max Gillard said the Melbourne-based technical centre is spending “almost 50 per cent” of its resources on the second-generation Fortuner.
“We have design [and engineering] responsibilities for the Fortuner, the SUV HiLux,” confirmed Gillard.
“That’s a very big project for us because that’s for Asia, India, South Africa, South America…”
Gillard (below) admits “that the Fortuner is a frame-based [separate-chassis] vehicle, so it’s not going to have the passenger-like feel of a Kluger, which is monocoque”, but says the technical centre is capable of finding a good ride and handling balance for the large SUV.
Although the Fortuner is not currently sold locally, the technical centre boss confirmed that the new model is being developed with Australia in mind, adding that “of course we would” like to see it sold here.
While Gillard stopped short of saying the next Fortuner is under consideration to be built as a third model at the company’s Altona, Victoria, manufacturing plant, he said that building an SUV locally “in my opinion would be” a viable option. Toyota Australia has also confirmed that it wants a third model to be built alongside Camry and Aurion at Altona.
“Engineers would get a great satisfaction pointing out to their family ‘well I did this, or I did that…’,” Gillard explained. “We get that satisfaction when we go overseas, but our family doesn’t even know what it [Fortuner] looks like.
“We’ve provided input as to what can be localised [for a third model at Altona].
“We’ve had to support them [Toyota] to assess the suppliers. It’s incumbent on us to provide the technical support they need.”
Asked whether he believed the Fortuner could be popular in Australia, Gillard replied “I don’t see why not”.
Although the Toyota Fortuner is not currently sold locally, many of its competitors are, such as the Holden Colorado 7 and Mitsubishi Challenger, both of which are based on the respective Colorado and Triton utes, just as Fortuner is based on HiLux. Ford will also introduce its Ranger-based Everest, which in a parallel to the Toyota Australia technical team’s work on Fortuner, has also been designed and engineered locally.
Currently, the second-generation Toyota Fortuner is more than halfway through its development and is set to launch in 2015, “with a bit of luck” Gillard says. He also confirmed the Fortuner would launch alongside its closely related HiLux ute sibling for the global market.
Established in June 2003, TTC-AU is one of only four technical centres in the Toyota world – in addition to one in the US, Europe and Thailand – which Gillard says “indicates in a relative sense we’re quite important".
The technical outpost employs just under 200 people and uses the Anglesea proving ground in southern Victoria as its testing base.