Maxmilian Wechsler took it for a spin to see if it lives up to the hype
THE Toyota Fortuner gained fame in Thailand during last year’s floods because it enabled families to safely evacuate their homes and, thanks to its generous space, take their prized possessions with them.
Most important, though, this SUV is able to navigate deep waters – perhaps one of the reasons why there continues to be such a high demand for the Fortuner locally.
“You can drive this car through 70 centimeters of water, which is very appealing to many of our buyers afterthe 2011 floods,” said Piya Airn-in, fleet sales manager of Toyota Muangnont who arranged for me to test drive the new Fortuner 3.OV 2WD. As I had no plans to personally check the accuracy of that claim, I had to take his word for it. What I do know after giving the car a good workout, though, is that this SUV is a beauty.
Toyota began selling the first of its Fortuner models in Thailand in 2005. The third generation 2012 Toyota Fortuner wasofficially launched in Thailand in July 2011. Toyota offers a choice of two diesel engines, a 3.0 liter which produces 163hp and a 2.5 liter delivering 144hp, as well as a gasoline engine version with a 2.7 liter engine and 168hp. In all there are seven versions of the Fortuner sold in Thailand, all locally produced. The Fortuner 3.OV 2WD I took out is a seven-seater diesel with 5-speed automatic transmission.
“It is a family car and the best-selling Fortuner in Thailand,” said Mr Piya. “People like this particular version because of the good price, safety, low fuel consumption and comfort. It is also well equipped and has the good workmanship Toyota is known for.”
Mr. Piya said one of the Fortuner’s strong points is its high resale value compared to other SUV brands, especially if it is diesel. This is something most Fortuner owners are well aware of before they buy the car.
Mr. Piya said that buyers are mostly males over 35 who drive it in the Bangkok metropolitan area. “About 70% of our customers order diesel. The most popular colour is white pearl, followed by black. The interior is beige in all models except the Fortuner 50th Anniversary version, which has a black interior and purple and white exterior,” Mr. Piya said.
He also mentioned that at his dealership the Fortuner is the third best selling Toyota, after the Vios and Vigo models.
The Altis comes in at fourth place. “The only complaints we get from our customers is that they must wait a long time for delivery. The waiting period is four to six months depending on the version, because we have so many on order,”said Mr. Piya. Other dealers contacted by The BigChilli have the same problem with deliveries. According to Mr. Piya there are 122 Toyota dealers, 33 of them in Bangkok.
Engine type 3.0 Diesel
Transmission 5 A/T
Fuel capacity (liters) 65
On the road
As I collected my silver Fortuner 3.OV 2WD from Mr. Piya at his Rama V showroom (the head office of Toyota Muangnont is at Sanambin Nam in Nonthaburi), I noticed it had only 10 kilometers on the clock. When I brought it back four days later, the reading was around 2,000 kilometers, and after spending quite a bit of time on the road in this SUV my verdict was very positive. It is much improved over the last model, which was not bad at all.
From the outside the new 3.OV 2WD looks more stylish than its predecessors and the interior is more luxurious and better equipped.
Here is a list of some exterior changes incorporated into 2012 Fortuner: New radiator grille with a lot of chrome, changed front bumper, new headlamps,
new design for the air scoop on the bonnet, new roof rail, new design for rear bumper and tail lamps, auto on-offheadlight, halogen projector headlight and rear view camera.
As for interior changes, these include new seats, new backlight for the instrument console, new steering wheel, Bluetooth with microphone, cruise control and AM/FM/ 1 DVD with 6.1” touch screen.
What I liked most about my latest Fortuner experience was sitting up high and having a good all round view of the traffic; it gives a real sense of security. In general many people like to drive SUV’s because of the security factor. Besides the better vision there is also the fact that if you havean accident you are less vulnerable to injury than someone driving a small sedan.
What I also liked was the steering and maneuverability, engine performance, touch screen controls, spacious cabin, large side mirrors, easy-to-find switches, the audio system, and dark wood inserts inside the cabin. As for the negatives, I had some difficulty controlling the car in high winds.
All in all, at 1,362,000 baht this face-lifted Fortuner is quite reasonable, although some may prefer to wait until 2013, when a more extensively reworked Fortuner will probably be released.
Toyota Thailand turns 50
Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. (TMT) celebrates its 50th anniversary in October this year and the company has a lot to cheer about. The iconic Japanese car maker is one of over 50 offering its models for sale in Thailand, and it is easily the bestselling brand here, as can be verified by a quicksurvey on any road in the country.
When Toyota Thailand was first established in 1962, the company only imported passenger cars and multi-purpose vehicles. The first assembly plant was opened in 1964, and there are now two more. Toyota has plans to add another two assembly plants in Thailand to meet the growing demand for its vehicles here and abroad. Toyota vehicles and auto parts made in Thailand are exported to 114 countries globally.
According to a Toyota representative, in 2011 the company sold 290,061 passenger and commercial vehicles, down from a total of 326,007 units in 2010.
Addressing the lower 2011 sales, Kiochi Tanada, TMT president said: “Last year’s automobile market struggled against devastating natural disasters,
including the tsunami in Japan and the major floods in Thailand, which affected the company’s domestic production.” Other car manufacturers reported asimilar downturn.
However, there has been a dramatic increase in Toyota sales so far this year. Between January and June 2012, Toyota sold 241,245 units, with 105,485 passenger and 135,760 commercial vehicles.
At a recent press conference, Mr. Tanada said: “Toyota’s first half-year sales show a growth of 54.3%, representing a 39.8% market share, with a 70.7% increase in commercial vehicles and a 37.4% increase in the passenger car segment.” He said the growing domestic sales were assisted by government subsidies to car buyers as well as strong demand in the market. Mr. Tanada said that from January to June 2012, Toyota exported 204,554 units, a 50.3% increase compared to the previous year.