When Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda confirmed that they are building a joint manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Alabama, both brands didn’t waste time letting the public in on their plans. Mazda was set to make an SUV exclusive to its North American market, while Toyota would be working on an additional production capacity for the Corolla. However, reports have surfaced that the latter will instead build a “new, yet-to-be-announced SUV”.
Although Toyota has not released any information on what the brand is working on at the Alabama plant, the company is believed to be sharing the details with dealers at a private event in Las Vegas this September.
Earlier this year, the brand announced that it will release a total of 12 new or redesigned vehicles within the next three years. To put the plan in motion, Toyota freed up its Mississippi plant and moved Corolla to Alabama, making more room for new small vehicles to be built.
Looking at the sales numbers of SUVs these days, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Toyota wants to dip another finger in the small SUV segment with its new model that is expected to be positioned below the brand’s current best-seller, the RAV4.
The new model is also likely to have an available all-wheel drive. But while it may be underpinned alongside the RAV4 and the front-drive-only C-HR, Toyota General Manager Jack Hollis suggested possible differences between the models.
“They can be in the same segment, but at a different price point. Or one is on-road, while the other is off-road. It could be taller, wider, or more capable,” Hollis said in an interview.
While Toyota takes its time before confirming anything, Hollis’s comments hint that the company could be looking at the possibility of making its presence felt in a segment it has not entered before.
Should the brand go for a small SUV, it will likely use the TNGA-C platform, which also underpins the Corolla, C-HR, Prius, and Lexus UX. It will compete with other subcompact SUVs in the segment such as the Subaru Crosstrek and Nissan Rogue Sport.