Toyota is by far the world leader in hybrids. The Japanese automaker has sold more than 4 million hybrid units worldwide under both the Toyota and Lexus umbrella since the launch of the Prius back in 1997. Rather surprisingly, Toyota hasn’t put nearly as much emphasis on other green technologies. They recently shelved plans for a big roll-out of all electric cars, and an increasing percentage of their diesel engines have been coming from Isuzu and BMW. However, it was announced earlier this month that Toyota would be turning more attention to in-house diesel development, and now it seems the company is taking the first step in this direction.
The Nation reports that Siam Toyota Industry, Toyota’s Thai subsidiary, will be expanding its diesel engine manufacturing in Thailand. Thailand and India have recently become much more important markets for Toyota, and the engine plant will be increasing its capacity by 290,000 units annually, for a total of 610,000. The expansion will is expected to cost around $500 million and create 450 new jobs.
This is all great for Thailand and India, but what impact it will have on the US market is unclear. In the past, it probably wouldn’t have meant anything at all, but diesel passenger cars have seen a big increase in sales in US over the past few years. Diesel vehicles saw a 35 percent increase in sales during the first quarter of this year, and sales are expect to continue to climb in coming years. Thanks to the efforts of a number of German manufacturers, Volkswagen in particular, the diesel engine is getting an improved green image all the time, and if Toyota wants to hold onto its dominance in that market, it would be wise to offer a diesel alternative to VW’s BlueMotion.
The hope is that the huge sales lead the Prius enjoys over all other hybrids in the US hasn’t made Toyota lazy. The expansion of the Thai facility could mean that the increasing importance of emerging markets and their demand for diesel will make the technology impossible to ignore. Toyota did unveil a new diesel Verso for the European market earlier this year, which competes with the VW Golf TDI. This is unlikely to make it to the US for now, but it does appear Toyota seems to be switching up its stance a bit and getting more serious about its commitment to diesel drivetrains. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to alternative green offerings from the automotive giant apart from hybrids.