Here\u2019s How Toyota Sold 50 Million Corollas

Toyota has sold 50 million Corollas. It’s hard to wrap your head around a 50 million of anything, but it’s easy to understand when you remember that the Corolla has been a successful part of Toyota’s lineup for over half a century. Sure, over 55 years the Corolla has changed significantly; we’re long past the days of a rear-wheel-drive Corolla and sitting on the eve of a Corolla-badge crossover. Even still, the Corolla manages to fit customer needs and find plenty of new driveways. If you haven’t thought about the Corolla’s history, don’t worry, we’ll take you down the Corolla’s memory lane.

The first-generation Corolla was not long-lived in the United States, only hitting American shores in 1969. That first-generation Corolla—a budget-friendly, 1.1-liter inline four-cylinder-powered machine—was a departure from the muscle machines of the era. Even though the Corolla wasn’t as cool as, say, a ’69 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, these early Corollas did help establish Toyota in the United States.

Growing for its second generation, this larger Corolla was better suited to American demands than the first run of cars. Now advertising 73 hp from its 1.2-liter I4, this peppier Corolla was gearing up to be a success. The second-generation Corolla also offered an automatic transmission, for those that didn’t want to shift their own gears. Toyota introduced a more powerful 88 hp, 1.6-liter powered SR-5 variant to help sway sportier buyers.

With the third-generation Corolla, you might notice a prevailing trend. This car also grew over the previous generation and offered three engines choices. This generation also added fastback and liftback variants, which helped make it become a perfectly 1970s design. Rising insurance and fuel costs helped drive attention to these fuel-sipping machines.

Welcome to the ‘80s. The Corolla continued to grow and now looked like something you’d expect from a car built for the ‘80s. This futuristic-looking Corolla offered a pair of engines: a 1.8-liter cam-in-block engine that made 75 hp or a 1.6-liter overhead cam engine that made a whopping 90 ponies. This generation also introduced seat memory to two-door Corollas that featured power seats. This is also the last generation to feature a rear-wheel-drive platform.

The Chicago Bears were set to dominate the NFL’s ’85 season, and Toyota was rolling out a new, front-wheel-drive Corolla. This fifth-generation Corolla laid the groundwork for the Corolla we see on dealer lots today. Fortunately, Toyota didn’t leave the rear-drive Corolla entirely this generation and still offered the now legendary AE-chassis cars. The rear-wheel-drive AE85 and AE86 Corollas have become darlings of the drift world and tuning community. The starring role in the anime Initial D probably didn’t hurt the AE86’s standing as a great-handling sports car.

While the AE86 kept rear-drive Corollas alive during the transition to front-drive platforms, those are absent in the sixth generation. That’s bad news for fans of touge or drift, but that doesn’t mean the sixth-gen Corolla is boring. The new all-wheel-drive All-Trac system helped push Toyota into the rally stages, and that all-wheel-drive system made its way to the Corolla. These all-wheel-drive Corollas might not be as popular today as the AE86 from the previous generation, but these have an appreciated place in Toyota’s history.

If you grew up in the ‘90s, this is the Corolla that comes to mind. The seventh-generation Toyota Corolla moved away from high-performance and settled into its role as a proficient commuter. The decision seemed like a good one, judging by sales, as this generation helped push the Corolla into becoming the best-selling car model ever.

The eighth-generation Corolla stuck with the successes of the previous generation and doubled down on its mass appeal. This generation also ushered in Toyota’s popular 1ZZ-FE four-cylinder engine. Derivatives of this powerplant still give motivation to Toyota cars today. One of the most important features of this engine was its use of variable valve timing, or VVT-i, as Toyota calls it.

With eight generations under its belt, the ninth-generation Corolla continued the nameplate’s pivot towards creature comforts. A center console fit for 14 compact discs and a larger shell helped make this a sales success. Its conservative styling, however, made it less likely to stand out.

The 10th-generation Toyota Corolla continued its growth trend and added even more creature comforts. This generation also got the 2.4-liter from the Toyota Camry in its options list, giving the Corolla a little more oomph.

The 11th-generation Corolla added a ton of high-tech features that consumers desired—even demanded—from entry-level cars. High-tech features like adaptive cruise control and the Toyota Safety Sense-P safety suite are only among a handful of additions to this tech-heavy Toyota. This generation also pushed the Corolla further upmarket with a nicer overall interior. Toyota also replaced the traditional automatic transmission with a more fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.

The current Corolla harkens back to its sportier history and is pushing in a more spirited direction. The addition of a Toyota Corolla GR would make this current Corolla fully embrace the sporting heritage that it shares with models like the AE86.

Crossovers are king. Spinning the beloved and familiar Corolla nameplate off to a crossover is a logical choice. It’s still too early to say if this will be a wise move, but it follows the trend of expanding crossover lineups across product portfolios.

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