At the recent Tokyo Auto Salon, Toyota motorsports partner GRMN worked with the Japanese auto giant to introduce a turbocharged version of the popular Vitz (Yaris) compact. While the car on exhibit may be a one-off, Toyota is reportedly planning to shift its focus to downsized, turbocharged, direct-injection engines rather than focusing only on gas-electric hybrid technology.
While hybrids are capable of achieving greater urban fuel economy, small displacement turbocharged direct-injection engines deliver better day-to-day performance and are also a lot less expensive to develop than hybrid systems. Furthermore, Toyota’s dominance in the hybrid market merely makes it a big fish in a small pond as the collective hybrid market in the United States only accounted for 274,927 sales while Ford’s Ecoboost range attained that figure alone.
Although Toyota has used direct-injection and turbocharging in select models, other automakers have implemented these technologies across the line-up. Other drivetrain developments such as transmissions have been inconsistent as well. While the flagship Lexus LS luxury sedan offers an advanced 8-speed automatic, the RAV-4 makes do with an outdated 4-speed.
Toyota is hoping that its partnership with GRMN will help the Japanese automaker carry out a rapid development program that can potentially make its way into multiple small and midsize products within the next couple of years. A small Japanese business daily paper has already reported that direct-injection turbo engines could appear in domestic Toyota products as soon as 2013. These new power trains will be found in models sold in China and Europe as well. Even though the market in the United States wasn’t formally addressed, automotive analyst of Deutsche Bank Kurt Sanger told The Detroit Bureau, “We expect it to be a potential market for such technology to further increase the competitiveness of (Toyota) products.” In other words, it’s a good idea.
Other sources along with Sanger believe that the next-generation Toyota Corolla is likely the first all-new North American model to receive a direct-injection turbocharged engine. However, Sanger also believes that the current Toyota Camry is ready for a direct-injection turbo engine now, without a need for a model change.
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]