Hilux’s upcoming facelift gets perkier 2.8 engine
..Google’s Kuffner joins Toyota board
Toyota’s Hilux pick-up has already been on sale for four years, and that means a midlife nip and tuck is due.
That could happen as early as this year, according to a new report which says that a facelifted Hilux range, complete with new features such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, is set to launch in Australia in July or August.
At this stage there is no word on when the model would reach some African markets including Nigeria as the models imported into the African market are sourced from Thailand, but the local versions do tend to mirror the Thai equivalents in most aspects. So it is inevitable that local models will eventually be upgraded in a similar fashion.
According to information, the Hilux is set to receive a “tougher” looking front end design, but the biggest news for local fans is the likely upgrade of the current 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine.
The model is to receive a major overhaul, and this will include a power increase, although exact figures are not known at this stage.
For the record, the current 2.8 TD produces 130kW and 450Nm. Toyota is also said to be working on a more hardcore Hilux that will serve as a direct rival to the Ford Ranger Raptor. Some rivals such as the Nissan Navara 2.3D and the next-generation Isuzu D-Max 3.0 produces 140kW and 450Nm respectively.
Indeed, the upgraded Hilux range will need all the ammunition it can get to face up to the next-generation Ford Ranger, which is likely to hit the market around 2022.
Meanwhile,Toyota has nominated James Kuffner, the present chief executive officer of its automated driving and robotics arm, to join the board of directors from June, signaling a shift in President Akio Toyoda’s priorities away from old-school automotive to next-generation new mobility.
Kuffner will be the second non-Japanese director on the Toyota board pending his approval at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, expected sometime in June. He has described his mission to develop self-driving cars for Toyota as the “moonshot” of his generation.
The American computer expert will retain his title as CEO of the Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development (TRI-AD) and take on a new title as chief digital officer, the company statement said.
Kuffner will also be appointed an operating officer at the parent company; he currently holds a title there of senior fellow for advance research and development (R&D) and engineering.
Kuffner replaces Didier Leroy, 62, the French chief competitive officer who will be giving up that role. Leroy is the top non-Japanese executive at the country’s biggest automaker. He will stay on as chairman of Toyota’s European business and remain an advisor to the parent company.
The other non-Japanese on the Toyota board is Philip Craven, an outside independent director. He is from the UK and served as president of the International Paralympic Committee.
Kuffner helped to build Google’s autonomous car when he worked in the company’s robotics division. He joined Toyota in January 2016 after working in Google’s robotics division where he was part of the initial engineering team that built the tech company’s self-driving car.
At Toyota, Kuffner helped set up the $1 billion Toyota Research Institute in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence that will be the backbone of automated and connected vehicles.
In 2018, he was tapped to be CEO of the $2.8 billion TRI-AD, a separate business set up in Tokyo to spearhead Toyota’s attempt to bridge the gap between research and the showroom floor.
“The prototypes and the preproduction vehicles that the team is building here at TRI-AD are going to be the most intelligent supercomputer on wheels,” he said last year after TRI-AD opened its office in downtown Tokyo. “We’ve called it the moonshot of my generation”.