Indus Motor Company (IMC) the assemblers of Toyota cars in Pakistan revealed its plans in September 2021 to assemble hybrid cars locally. In a notification sent to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) that month, IMC informed that it will invest $100 million in the local production of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) over the next 3 years.
This came on the back of the relaxation of various taxes and duties announced by the government in the Finance Act 2021, in order to encourage the local production of environment-friendly vehicles in Pakistan.
Then in May 2022, the company CEO Ali Asghar Jamali during the 6th Journalists Summit announced that the locally assembled Toyota Corolla Cross will be launched in 2023. Jamali said:
“We are planning to launch our first-ever locally-assembled HEV SUV – Toyota Corolla Cross by 2023. Continuing the legacy of ‘Make in Pakistan’ philosophy, Toyota has already invested $100 million to produce HEVs in Pakistan.”
However, after that, a lot has changed since the previous government was toppled. Rupee nosedived to a record low, and a cap on the imports was put in to save the outflow of precious foreign reserves which shrunk to the lowest-ever mark, and constant non-production days observed by local assemblers in wake of a shortage of inventory & CKD kits in hand due to the stringent conditions in approving the Letter of Credit (LCs) by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The production of automobiles has already been cut in half and most assemblers including Toyota are either not taking new bookings of CKD & CBU vehicles or offering a full refund. The situation doesn’t seem to be improving in the coming months due to which the launch of many new cars has been pushed back.
Back in May 2022, the IMC CEO revealed that “the locally assembled Toyota Corolla Cross will be priced between Rs 5 million to 7 million, however considering the current economic situation of the country and the government’s plan to increase taxes on cars, IMC will reveal its final price next year.” The Corolla Cross which was sold by IMC as CBU imported product was priced from Rs 1.22 crore for the base variant to Rs 1.34 crore for the top-spec variant before the order bookings were halted.
In the current scenario even if the Corolla Cross is launched as a CKD-assembled product, one can expect it to be priced around the Rs 10 million mark. Jamali said the introduction of hybrid technology would not only add a new dimension to localization in Pakistan but would also benefit the country in terms of forex savings and reduction of the fuel import bill.
This is interesting since if HEVs in the passenger car segment are really going to cut down the import bill, why not begin with options which are considered more suitable & affordable for the masses such as the Aqua hybrid or the new Yaris Cross hybrid instead of a more expensive Corolla Cross that is targeted for the elites?
Secondly, even in the Japanese domestic market, Toyota hybrids are considered the most economical with 7 out of the top 10 most fuel-efficient hybrid cars in Japan. Interestingly in terms of fuel efficiency, the Corolla Cross is not even there on the list. This makes us wonder why IMC hasn’t decided to begin its hybrid operations in Pakistan with more fuel-efficient options if saving the fuel import bill is the core motive.
An expensive Corolla Cross having just a hybrid badge and not required fuel efficiency on the menu, with a handful of sales won’t do much to contribute either towards improving the environment or bringing down the fuel import costs.
Pakistan is way behind the world when it comes to automobiles and technology, fuel, emissions as well as safety standards. Hybrid cars will indeed be a step up considering the fact that we still see Euro-2-compliant cars rolling off the local assembly lines in the year 2023.
But in order to bear real fruits, we need affordable & practical hybrid cars offered for the mass-market buyers rather than something for the few elites.
Related: Euro 2 in Pakistan, A Decade!
We will have to wait to see if the locally assembled Toyota Corolla Cross is launched this year, but we strongly believe hybrids such as the Toyota Aqua, Yaris Cross, or Raize hybrid should be introduced here as locally assembled offerings.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com