After 47.65 Million Corollas, Finally a Common Platform, Everywhere

After launching in all corners of the world, the 12th generation Corolla comes home.

Bertel Schmitt

Japan is the worst place to report on a new Japanese car. When it comes to car launches, Japanese live in “after you” country. The U.S. got its latest Toyota Corolla early this year. China saw the new Corolla a year ago, when Toyota promised that the car would soon be “sold in more than 150 countries and regions.” Apparently, Toyota’s home-market Japan is last in that line, because until yesterday, you stood a better chance of seeing a new Corolla in Oman than at Toyota’s site in Odaiba, Tokyo.

Good things come to those who wait, allegedly, and today, the good things finally came to Odaiba, when at Toyota’s Megaweb the 12th generation Corolla was finally launched onto the waiting land of the late-rising sun. No worries, I won’t bore you with details of the car; living elsewhere than Japan, you know them way more intimately than I. Hey, even the new Corolla commercials running as of today in Japan look like they’ve been used elsewhere already.

Instead of details, let’s talk about the grand scheme of things. This is not only the 12th generation of the Corolla since its inception in 1966, an occasion Toyota thankfully grabbed by the horns lined up one of each generation in the sprawling halls of the Megaweb, except for Generation 4, which seems to have gone astray.

Bertel Schmitt

Looks like the 2020 Corolla you know, no?

This is the first Corolla that now sits on the same TNGA platform everywhere in the world. In the olden days, Corollas in different markets had different underpinnings; in Europe, the Corolla even had a different name – Auris – and a hatchback. The term “platform” tends to be a bit fluid at Toyota, so I asked Toyota’s spokesman Ryo Sakai what the number of different Corolla platforms for different markets was. Ryo made a “this would be difficult” face, and punted: “two at least.” From now on, it’s easy: One world, one Corolla.

Of course, there are subtle Corolla-changes that appeal to the car’s respective markets, but with the help of the modular TNGA architecture, those changes now come easy. We hear “the road makes the car” at least once in every Toyota presentation, and we heard it again from the Corolla’s Chief Engineer Yasushi Ueda who showed how the tight Japanese roads, along with Japan’s super-tight parking spots, make for the slightly shorter wheelbase of the JDM Corolla, its tighter turning radius, and its added precautions for not nicking the neighbor in the parking garage, all part of a domestic package that is “an ideal fit for Japan.”

What left a lasting impression in me was a huge number thrown against the wall of the Megaweb today: Total global cumulative sales of all Corollas in all of the world now officially stand at 47.65 million as of August 2019. Actually, what was thrown against the wall was “4,765” and no, that’s not some 4.8 million, that’s Japanese for 47,65 million. This makes the Corolla by far the most-produced and most-sold car in the world, more than the Model T, more than the T’s Russian comrade, the Lada, more than the Volkswagen Beetle. The Corolla is so huge in Japan that it lent its name to a whole chain of “Toyota Corolla” dealers, where one can buy the Corolla, along with other Toyota cars like the Camry or the Supra, models that confusingly are not always available in Toyota’s other chains of Japanese dealers, such as there are “Toyopet,” and the Germanophile-named “Netz” chain. (“Netz” is German for “network.”) Praise the Toyota executive who finally decided to end the strange dealer-segmentation. As of next year, all Toyota cars can be had at all Japanese Toyota dealers. In Tokyo, this is already the case, tells me Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi.

Of course, where are statistics, there are detractors, and car counters rooting for the Beetle, or the Model T often grouched that, what with the many platforms, the Corolla is a model in name only. Meanwhile, the Corolla has amassed sales more than double of those of the runner-up, the Beetle, and the grouching stopped. In any case, with the Corolla now sitting on the same underpinnings world-wide, the complaints have been overtaken by events.