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Toyota To Build SUV Instead Of Corolla At New Alabama Plant

motor1 logo motor1 7/11/2019 Chris Bruce
a black car on display: Toyota FT-4X Concept - New York 2017

The company won't identify the vehicle yet.

Toyota will use its new joint venture factory with Mazda to build a yet-to-be-announced SUV. The automaker previously intended to build the Corolla there. 

"This shift is in response to changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs which are achieving record sales," Toyota said in a statement. The company now plans to continue producing the Corolla at its factory in Blue Springs, Mississippi.

The Toyota-Mazda joint factory in Huntsville, Alabama, will start producing vehicles in 2021 and will employ 4,000 people. The site will have a capacity of 300,000 cars per year. Mazda will also produce a crossover there, but the automaker won't announce the name of the vehicle yet. The companies are investing $1.6 billion into the project.

a car parked in front of a building: Toyota FT-4X Concept - New York 2017© Toyota FT-4X Concept - New York 2017

The identity of this new Toyota model is a mystery, but rumors suggest the company is considering building a production version of the FT-4X concept (gallery above). The model would give the brand a rugged, compact crossover. According to Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz, there are customers asking for "another FJ," and he sees room for an "authentic small off-road SUV" in the brand's lineup.

The FT-4X Concept was purely a styling exercise that the designers intended to adapt cues from classic Land Cruisers and the brand's vintage pickups into a modern, compact crossover. The interior featured utilitarian touches like a removable audio system and tubular HVAC vents that could tilt downward to blow air on the shelf below them. The door handles even did double duty as removable water bottles. Toyota didn't offer many drivetrain details at the time but indicated that such a vehicle would use a small-displacement four-cylinder engine and four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case. 

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