By Dennis Seid
BLUE SPRINGS – The world’s best-selling car is about to find its way to even more customers.
More than 41 million Toyota Corollas have been sold globally since the car’s debut in 1966, and soon, Mississippi-made Corollas will be landing in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi rolled out its first export-bound Corolla on Thursday, the first of 7,500 this year.
“This is a significant milestone for us,” said TMMMS Vice President of Administration Sean Suggs.
Essentially, this marks the plant’s third model in less than three years. When Toyota Mississippi began production in October 2011, it started with the last-generation Corolla. The latest generation was introduced last summer, and the export version – while sharing the same platform and many components – is tweaked for the new markets.
For example, new engine specifications and emissions are required for the Latin America- and Caribbean-bound Corollas, and other options on the car differ, too.
Still, they’ll be built side-by-side Corollas sold in the U.S., and only a keen eye will be able to distinguish between the models.
The redesigned Corolla has maintained its position as one of the best-selling compact cars in the industry, and finding customers in new areas will strengthen its hold.
“We feel like we should take advantage of the export market,” said Nihar Patel, Toyota Motor Sales USA’s vice president of North America Business Strategy.
Toyota, which began exporting vehicles from its North American plants in 1998, already sold more than 130,000 vehicles in China, Russia, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand last year.
The 7,500 Corollas being sent from Toyota Mississippi will be spread among 18 countries, leaving plenty of growth opportunities.
“It’s the upper class, the middle class in those countries that want American-built products,” Patel said. “When we’ve shown them the products (we have), they feel exhilarated. … last year, we sold 1.3 million Corollas globally. It’s a fantastic opportunity we have in those new markets.”