Toyota Unveils 1999 Solara Mid-Size Sport Coupe at Detroit Auto Show
7 January 1998Toyota Unveils 1999 Solara Mid-Size Sport Coupe at Detroit Auto Show
DETROIT, Jan. 7 -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today unveiled the all-new 1999 Solara sport coupe at its world-premiere press conference at the North American International Auto Show here. The mid-size coupe is based on the Camry front-drive platform and will share the Camry's engines and transmissions. It will be built exclusively at the company's recently expanded plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, and will arrive in dealer showrooms in the U.S. and Canada in August. "Solara was developed to target a new opportunity in the sport specialty segment, an emerging market with strong long-term growth potential," said Dave Illingworth, Toyota Division vice president and general manager. "Solara's primary target will be empty-nest boomers, entering their peak earning years, who are nostalgic for the sports cars of their youth, but need more room and comfort than a sports car can provide," he said. "They are looking for expressive styling that is a cut above the competition; styling that is a balanced blend of both sportiness and elegance. They want a vehicle that is powerful, fun to drive and comfortable and delivers exceptional value. More to the point, they are seeking justifiable indulgence. Approximately 1.5 million empty-nest boomers enter the market every year, 30 percent of whom say they would like to purchase a sports car. We're convinced the Solara is the sports coupe many of them have been waiting for." The Solara is an especially significant vehicle for Toyota because it will be the first to take advantage of the combined talents of Toyota's North American styling, engineering and manufacturing facilities. Solara was styled by Toyota's CALTY Design Center in Newport Beach, Calif., which also was responsible for crafting the Lexus SC series. An elegant and upscale coupe, Solara combines hard edges and tight surfaces to create a feeling of precision, a sense of stability and a timeless beauty. Relying on refinement rather than exaggeration, Solara's target image is mature, dignified and controlled; a vehicle aimed at broad appeal within a segment driven by image and style. While CALTY handled initial styling, engineering development for the new coupe was shared between Toyota Engineering in Japan and the Toyota Technical Center (TTC), based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Toyota has become increasingly reliant on TTC's ability to design and engineer parts, components and systems with unique appeal to the American consumer. TTC has contributed significantly to the North American content of domestically produced vehicles by building a strong American supplier base. TTC also works closely with North American production facilities to develop parts and components that make the production process simpler, less expensive and more precise. This last point is important because it is one of the reasons why the production facility where the coupe will be built has twice been the recipient of the J.D. Power Gold Plant Award for Initial Quality. In 1988, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Canada (TMMC) began building the Corolla. Last year, TMMC was expanded to 2.8 million square feet to accommodate the addition of a second plant. The original plant was re-tooled to handle the production of the all-new Solara at an initial rate of 50,000 units per year. When it is fully operational, the facility will have a combined Corolla/Solara capacity of 200,000 units per year, employing 2,700 people. Solara will be the sixth North American-built vehicle marketed by Toyota. With the addition of Sienna last year and Solara this year, North American- built vehicles will account for more than 65 percent of Toyota's total U.S. sales. Built at TMMC and styled at CALTY, and benefiting from growing design and engineering involvement from TTC, Solara will be the product of the highest level of North American influence of any Toyota vehicle. Solara will be offered in SE and SLE grade levels. The SE will give buyers a choice of either a 200-horsepower 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 or 136- horsepower DOHC four-cylinder engine backed by either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. The Solara SLE premium grade will feature the V6 with automatic transmission, exclusively. With engine performance a high priority among buyers in this segment, approximately 75 percent of all Solaras sold the first year will be powered by the V6 engine. The Solara buyer will demand a high level of feature content and flagship- grade component quality. Standard equipment on the SE grade will include four-wheel antilock brakes, power windows, door locks and mirrors, air conditioning, tilt wheel, cruise control, side airbags, deluxe AM/FM/cassette and 15-inch wheels and tires. Options on the SE grade include 8-way power driver seat, moon roof, premium grade audio systems with JBL amplified speakers, 15-inch alloy wheels and leather interior. Standard equipment on the SLE grade will include leather interior with 8- way adjustable driver seat, 15-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/security system and premium 3-in-1 AM/FM/Cassette/CD with amplified JBL speaker system. To further enhance Solara's premium image, automatic climate control, heated side-view mirrors, three-function Homelink electronic remote-control system and auto-dimming rear-view mirror will be offered as standard equipment, exclusively to the SLE grade. Traction control also will be offered as an exclusive option on the SLE, while a rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels and tires will be offered as optional equipment on all grades powered by the V6 engine. "The emerging market for a vehicle like the Solara is driven by demographic shifts which allow for more flexibility in household fleets," said Illingworth. "The important point is that the industry moves in cycles. There is no doubt that the sporty car segment has seen better times, and there is no doubt that it will see better times, again. Car manufacturers that can accurately gauge the demographic shifts in the market, then target these shifts with the right products, will succeed. The Solara is a special product for a special market. It won't be the last. So stay tuned." SOURCE Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.