NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor on Tuesday rolled out its first Hilux pickup trucks in Japan since the model was discontinued here in 2004.
The Japanese automaker positions Hilux as a strategic model for emerging markets, and produces it in Thailand. Toyota will ship the vehicles from the Southeast Asian country to Japan -- a rare case of reverse exports to Japan.
The model was first introduced in 1968 and has been sold in about 180 markets. Its cumulative sales worldwide reached roughly 17.3 million at the end of July. Even though it was discontinued in Japan well over a decade ago, there are still about 9,000 owners who use Hiluxes, said chief engineer Masahiko Maeda.
"Many people have called for its reintroduction, and we wanted to properly respond to their needs," Maeda added.
The 5.3-meter-long truck runs on a powerful 2.4-liter diesel engine. It employs a system that allows the driver to switch between two- and four-wheel drive depending on the road surface.
Touting an ability to drive on rough and unpaved roads, the Hilux gives off a rustic and tough image. With a flat cargo bed on the back, the pickup truck has traditionally been used for heavy-duty work. Toyota hopes the model can serve as an expression of an active lifestyle, Maeda noted.
The price in Japan ranges from 3.26 million yen to 3.74 million yen ($29,700 to $34,000). Available at Toyota dealerships across Japan, the automaker aims to sell 2,000 Hiluxes a year.