Toyota has officially launched its Corolla sedan in China. According to Reuters, the model will be offered in two 1.8 litre [petrol-powered] versions – the GL-i, priced at the equivalent of $US21,135 (175,000 yuan), and the GLX-i at $22,800.

According to the report, the Corolla will be built at the FAW-Toyota plant in Tianjin on the same line as the Vios compact sedan, Toyota’s first entry into China’s passenger car market.

Reuters said that Toyota aims to sell 50,000 Corollas this year and is hoping annual Corolla sales will eventually reach 200,000.

During a Beijing press conference, Toyota and its joint venture partner First Auto Works reportedly took great pains to point out that the Corolla – which was first launched in 1966 – now includes high tech safety equipment, a DVD/VCD/CD player and satellite navigation.

The local content is already at 40%, allowing the Corolla to qualify for a lower tax rate, Reuters said, while the engine is at 50% local content.

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The Chinese version of the Corolla will be the same as that sold in America and the rest of Asia, Toshio Furutani, president of FAW-Toyota Motor Sales Co., told Reuters, adding: “It is a little wider than the Japanese and European version.”

In China, where according to AC Nielsen research size is one of the most important decision points in any price range, those few centimetres may mean extra sales, the report said, adding that Toyota has 96 showrooms and 26 repair-only shops in China.

Reuters said that other foreign carmakers have been criticised by the Chinese press for bringing what were perceived as out-of-date models to the China market.

For example, General Motors’ popular Buick Sail sedan, a model originally designed as a Chevrolet by GM’s Brazilian arm, is based on the previous-generation European Opel Corsa hatchback.

According to Reuters, seemingly seeking to prove to a room full of local journalists that Toyota was bringing one of its most modern models to China, Au Ping, a chief engineer from Toyota Motor Corp, spent half an hour spelling out the technical details of the Corolla, complete with a slide show. During the presentation, a silver Corolla circled slowly on the stage behind him.

The news agency said Toyota now builds five cars in China: the subcompact Vios; two versions of the Land Cruiser SUV; the small Terios cross-over SUV/car; and now the Corolla.