The Toyota Corolla is the best selling car name in the world, although to be fair it has gone through many different generations, and a new Corolla today would be a different vehicle altogether to the one that was first launched in 1966. However with more than 45 million Corollas sold worldwide this is still no mean achievement.
It was initially launched as a rearwheel drive (front wheel drive, as well as four-wheel-drive came later) supermini with a 1068 cc straight four-cylinder engine, generating just 59 brake horse power, with a four-speed gearbox. It was best described as a competent car, but pretty boring to drive.
Why was it so successful then? It was down to marketing. Toyota showed that it was not necessary to have the fastest car on the block, to be successful; what millions of people throughout the world wanted, and still want, is a reliable means of transport which is comfortable and won't cost them a fortune. This pretty much summed up the Corolla. However there was more to it than that.
At the time that the Corolla was launched buying a new vehicle could be a very frustrating exercise. It was usual to put a deposit down and then wait weeks or even months for the car to be delivered. The 1960s was also a bad time for car manufacturers particularly in Britain, which even then was still a major car manufacturing country; constant labour disputes caused delivery delays and quality issues.
Toyota however would build up a stock of not only finished cars but also spare parts before launching a vehicle onto the market; it was possible to go into a showroom, pay for a car and drive it away. This is something we may take for granted in these days but it was certainly a different way of doing business in the 1960s!
Another clever marketing method, and again one that we take for granted these days, is the way in which an advertised price was the price that you paid. It was not unusual to get a quotation for a new car only to find that paint, delivery, and a short road fund licence could add hundreds of pounds to the final bill. This may have inflated the profits of certain car manufacturers in those days but it was a short term benefit only as buyers moved away when they found out that it was so much easier to buy Japanese.
Many generations later the Corolla is still a car which is not terribly exciting to drive but it is reliable, cheap to run, and cheap to repair if it ever breaks down. Characteristics which still make it one of the best selling cars in the world.