Published on August 17th, 2021 | by Subhash Nair


The Toyota Corolla: 50 MILLION Units Sold In 55 Years

The Toyota Corolla has been around for 55 years and in that time, it has found 50 million customers.

What’s the most popular car in the world? The Corolla of course. It has been that way since 1966 and this month, Toyota has sold their 50 millionth Corolla!

Toyota Corolla’s history in Malaysia

It was back in the mid-1960s when the Champion Motors plant (now called Assembly Services Sdn Bhd) was tooled to assemble the Corolla. In the early years, this plant had the highest output in the country and made Toyota the number one brand in Malaysia by the 1970s with the Corolla as their best-selling model.

Since the Corolla was introduced in Malaysia, over 300,000 units have been sold here.

2018 toyota corolla altis sedan asean spec rear

Since 2008, UMW Toyota made the decision to stop local assembly of the Corolla and instead import them from Thailand, as the ASEAN Free-Trade Agreement (AFTA) and the popularity of the Toyota Vios affected their strategy.

toyota corolla cross exterior in motion

Today, local assembly resumes with the Corolla Cross, the latest SUV member of the Corolla family, which in the past has included bodystyles such as liftback, coupé, 3-door hatchback, wagon, sedan and more.

BHPetrol_Euro5 Diesel_2021

Here’s the press release with the whole story.


Right from the start, Toyota had expected the Corolla to be a global model, not only to be exported from Japan but also for assembly in many countries, especially developing ones like young Malaysia. Local assembly was done from completely knocked down (CKD) packs of parts and in the process, valuable technology was transferred which helped in the industrial development of the country.

When the first generation was introduced, Japan was starting to motorise. Likewise in Malaysia, the same social trend was also taking place. As part of the aim to becoming a more industrialized country, the government identified the auto industry as one element. After all, it was already shown that the auto industry was a catalyst in the industrial and economic development of countries like Japan, Germany and the USA. Through the auto industry, ancillary industries downstream would start to develop, creating more jobs.

So, in 1965, when the government invited car manufacturers to assemble their products in Malaysia, Toyota was among the first to respond. It had the ideal model for the purpose which was the new Corolla. For the local assembly of the Corolla, Toyota approached Champion Motors which had set up a huge assembly plant in Shah Alam, Selangor. Owned by the Inchcape Group then, the Champion Motors plant – which would later be renamed as Assembly Services Sdn Bhd (ASSB) – assembled a number of other brands under contract as well.

In its early years, ASSB had the highest output in the country and with positive response to the Corolla when it was introduced in 1968, the model began to account for an ever increasing percentage of vehicles coming out from ASSB. Other Toyota models were added as the years went by and the popularity of Toyota among Malaysians made it the No.1 brand by the 1970s, with the Corolla as the bestselling model in the country. To date, some 300,000 units of the Corolla have been sold in the Malaysian market, a part of the 50 million sold worldwide.

Most generations of the Corolla have been assembled in Malaysia while from 2008, the model has been imported in CBU form from Thailand. Different variants have offered added choice to customers. While the sedan was the most popular, there was also a stationwagon which could be used by small businesses for good deliveries. The Corolla Liftback also offered a sporty and versatile option, its performance highlighted in local rallies.

The car was aimed at a broad spectrum of users but more importantly, especially as it was an entry-level model, it was priced affordably. It became the type of automobile that people wanted to continue driving for a long time. It was proven to be reliable, durable as well as economical – factors which helped to make Toyota a household name among Malaysians.

As expectations of Malaysian customer grew, so too did the Corolla evolve to meet those expectations. Even though it was originally an entry-level model, it was expected to have higher quality with a more premium feel, more advanced technology and, of course, be good value for money.

This saw the introduction of the ninth generation with the concept of “New Century Value” with ‘Altis’ being added to its name to emphasize the step up in quality, luxury and even size. This all-new model boosted the popularity of the Corolla in Malaysia as it set new standards. Annual sales of subsequent generations rose even more.

In the decade between 2010 and 2020, the Corolla accounted for 6% of total sales of Toyota vehicles in the country with the 11th generation – sold between 2006 and 2013 – becoming the bestselling generation to date in Malaysia. Around 40,000 units were sold in the time the model was in the market.

Contributor to brand transformation

“The success of the model was due to it being a new standard of automotive excellence in this class of cars, offering customers a dynamic and advanced sedan with luxurious styling. There were also higher levels of safety and the model was friendlier to the environment,” said Ravindran K., President of UMW Toyota Motor.

“Each generation, right from the very first, has been a contributor in the brand transformation. From the first generation which began the motorization for the masses to the latest generation which was the basis of the transformation, the Corolla has always been in sync with the changes in society and the economy of Malaysia,” he added.

While each new generation saw many new customers joining the Toyota family, there were also many who were not just loyal Toyota customers but specifically loyal to the Corolla. 63% traded in their old model (or upgraded) for a new one when it was launched, always confident that they would still get the best value for money, reliability, durability and good resale value. Almost a third of Corolla customers also bought one as an additional car for the household. If they did not sell it off, it would remain in the family for a long period, passed down to children who would have reliable and economical transport on Malaysian roads.

The Corolla also created a ‘cult’ of its own with younger generations of motorists buying the older models, especially the fourth generation (KE70). That the cars were still in good conditions after decades was testimony to the durability that engineers built into the cars and the high quality of local assembly.

As mentioned earlier, local assembly saw transfer of technology which Toyota was happy to offer. The technology was not just in the product itself but also the manufacturing processes. For example, in the late 1970s, the assembly plant installed an automated electro-deposition (ED) system in the paintshop to apply primer paint. The 4th generation Corolla was the first model to go through this system which improved corrosion protection significantly, thereby extending quality and long-term durability.

Every generation of the Corolla has brought with it new technologies in various areas, improving performance, fuel efficiency, safety and comfort. In some models, the technology was pioneering in the Corolla’s class if not in the Malaysian market. In more recent times, besides TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture), the Corolla has also come with more advanced safety features and better connectivity.

Of course, even the best engineered product would not sell well without good aftersales services. In this respect, owners of the Corolla (as well as other Toyota models) in Malaysia have enjoyed superlative aftersales support from UMW Toyota Motor. In fact, Toyota’s aftersales services have been among the best in Malaysia since the 1980s when the company was the first to set up a division dedicated to customer care and manage customer relations.

Meeting changing tastes

In the 55 years that the Corolla has been around, its continued popularity has proved the basic philosophy behind the models is valid. However, the original design has evolved over the generations to meet changing tastes and lifestyles of Malaysian customers. An example is the introduction of the Corolla Cross last year, in response to the surge in popularity of SUVs. This is the first time such a bodystyle has been offered for the all-time bestselling car model in the world. The introduction of the Corolla Cross in the Malaysian market has also enabled UMW Toyota
Motor to provide enhanced safety features which customers expect.

“The Corolla is a global, high quality vehicle that transcends class, as it has always been. In more than 50 years and over 12 generations, it has brought joy of ownership to tens of thousands of customers throughout Malaysia,” said Akio Takeyama, Deputy Chairman of UMW Toyota Motor.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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