Toyota gears up to assemble Fortuner SUV in India

Written by Jaishankar Jayaramiah | Bangalore | Updated: Mar 1 2009, 04:07am hrs
Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM), the Indian subsidiary of Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corporation, plans to assemble its luxury Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) Fortuner in India.

Although Toyota has not made any official announcement over the launch date, the company sources said that Toyota has been preparing its assembly line at its manufacturing facility in Bidadi near Bangalore to launch the Fortuner in India in the first week of August 2009. Initially, the Fortuner would be imported as completely knocked down (CKD) kits and assembled at its Bidadi plant. Later, Toyota would start producing the vehicle locally as it could be manufactured under the company's common innovative international multi-purpose vehicle (IMV) project, under which currently TKM manufactures its flagship multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) Innova, a TKM official said requesting anonymity.

Declining to give details on the possibilities of manufacturing Fortuner in India, TKM president and managing director Hiroshi Nakagawa said both Innova and Fortuner come from Toyotas IMV project. He said Innova was developed under IMV-5 programme while Fortuner has been developed under IMV-4.

Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director of TKM for marketing, declining to provide details on exact launch time, said, Currently, we are studying and looking at possibilities (to launch Fortuner). However, he said the Fortuner would be one of the strongest contenders. Even if sales volumes are at lower levels in the beginning months due to current slowdown, the TKM executive who declined to be identified ruled out importing the vehicle as completely built units (CBU) as it would attract import duty of around 108-110% that would escalate price of the vehicle in the local market.

If the company manufactures Fortuner, it would be the third vehicle produced locally by TKM. Currently, Toyota has four models for India but only Innova and Corolla are manufactured locally while Prado and Camry are being imported as CBUs.

The company was under pressure to launch Fortuner this year as there was a gap felt by dealers and buyers in India in lining up of new models by the Japanese auto major in recent years, a Mumbai-based analyst said.

After launching the companys flagship multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) Innova in 2005, the company has not rolled out any new models except introducing tenth generation Corolla Altis and a few upgraded versions of Innova.

The company plans to sell around 5,000-6,000 units of Fortuner per annum in the beginning years with a price tag of Rs 16-18 lakh, a Toyota dealer said. Toyota is expected to fit the Fortuner against the Chevrolet Captiva, Honda CRV and Ford Endeavor.