Toyota is preparing to unveil the first all-new, completely redesigned version of the Corolla in many years.
The Corolla is arguably the world's most popular car.
It was introduced in Japan in 1966, coming to the United States two years later. By 2005, Toyota had sold 30 million of them. In the United States, where drivers prefer larger cars, it's the brand's second most popular model after the Camry family sedan.
Toyota(TM) has called the Corolla the world's best-selling car, although Ford(F), with the Focus, has recently laid claim to that title. The Corolla is sold in over 100 different countries.
Toyota won't say how long it's been since the Corolla has had a "complete redesign." The Corolla has changed in an "evolutionary" fashion over the last several years, Toyota spokesman Maurice Durand said. A complete redesign, generally speaking, means that a car is changed such that it shares few, if any, components with one from the prior model year.
The Corolla is facing challenges. During the month of April, its sales fell behind those of the recently redesigned Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra, according to data from Edmunds.com. So the new Corolla may be arriving just in time.
"I think they need to figure out how to add some pizzazz to that car because the competition is just heating up," said Jake Fisher, head of auto testing for Consumer Reports.
The new Corolla, which will be unveiled at an event in California in early June, is expected to be very different from the current model. Two recent Toyota concept cars offer some idea of what the car will look like.
The Furia, unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, and the Yundong Shuangqing II, unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, both have smooth lines and sharp creases that make them look almost as if their bodies were made from fabric tightly stretched over a framework.
Even as competitors have launched all-new compact models with more advanced technologies, the Corolla has continued to be the best-selling compact car in the U.S. so far this year.
Although new cars and redesigns usually spur sales, there are benefits to the being old, pointed out Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the automotive Web site Edmunds.com. Toyota's lack of heavy engineering investment in the current car has allowed Toyota to sell Corollas cheaply. The Corolla still has a four-speed automatic transmission where some competitors offer six-speed transmissions, for example.
Many buyers like the familiarity of the car, Caldwell said.
"Corolla is a name that I know, I can trust, it's proven itself," car shoppers think, according to Caldwell.
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Late last year, Consumer Reports magazine named the Corolla a "Best value car," describing it as "rather bland" but dependable and fuel efficient.
Also, the huge number of Corolla drivers already out there provide a ready and easy customer base to sell to, Caldwell said. When buying a new car, many people simply trade in their current car for a newer version of the same thing.