A few weeks ago we learned from another report that Toyota was looking at building hybrids in Southeast Asia. Specifically: a diesel hybrid. Basing on a report is one thing, but we wanted more concrete information. And now we have a bit more.
According to an insider, Toyota is indeed working on a diesel hybrid power unit. Actually, it's a GD Hybrid.
GD is the series of Toyota engines that is powering a lot of their models particularly in this region such as the Hilux, Fortuner, and the Innova. Some models can get the 2.8-liter 1GD-FTV while others have the 2.4-liter 2GD-FTV. Even the Japan-made Hiace and Hiace Super Grandia models use the 1GD engine.
We were also told that the internal Toyota code for the project is '188D' and that the launch date is sometime in the second quarter of 2022.
Beyond those bits, further information is unclear, particularly as to which model would have the GD Hybrid. Our source did state something interesting: the model is likely to be the Fortuner. We agree, and the explanation is simple: it's about getting around excise taxes.
We had initially thought it would be the Hilux given that it is the company's major model in their biggest market in ASEAN which is Thailand. We ruled that out because the model already benefits from excise tax advantages under their regulations; anywhere between 2% to 13%.
The Fortuner, however, is subjected to a 20% excise tax. By turning it into a hybrid, it will qualify for Thailand's EV incentives which would cut down the excise of a Fortuner Hybrid in half to just 10%. That could be enough to make a significant dent in the market by making the price more attractive.
This news about a diesel hybrid is also unusual because while Toyota does a lot of hybrids in the region and in the world, we haven't seen a mass-market diesel hybrid from the company yet. Yes, they pioneered and mass-marketed the technology in the Prius, which was then fielded in many other Toyota models in different variations and configurations, but a diesel hybrid is not very common.
The benefit of an electric drive unit with a petrol engine is a good combination because of the benefits of how one can cancel or reduce the disadvantages of the other. Here's one example: electric motors have high torque at the start which compensates for the low torque of petrol engines at low RPMs. That means enhanced fuel efficiency.
In a diesel, the torque is already available down low. The benefit of a hybrid in diesel would have to be reducing emissions. The development will be a challenge for Toyota, no doubt; and there's also the question of whether the hybrid system will affect the water wading capabilities of the Fortuner.
It's also worth pointing out that Toyota's truck brand Hino does have diesel hybrid technology, but we're not sure what role the latter would play (if any) in the development of the GD Hybrid.
Here's one more thing we can add to that: the Philippines is also a significant market for the Toyota Fortuner. Under our own tax law (TRAIN), that means the Fortuner Hybrid -if launched here- will also benefit from being subjected to only half the normal excise tax rate just like in Thailand. Our Fortuner units come from Indonesia, but since there were reports that they're looking to build hybrid vehicles there, the many bits and pieces of information seem to be fitting together well.
Beyond the info that Toyota is working on a GD Hybrid, project code 188D, and that it will be revealed in Q2 2022, everything is still conjecture. But if we got it right, we could end up driving a Fortuner with a blue halo on the Toyota emblem.