Toyota Thailand Co. Ltd. launches the new Hilux Vigo 1-ton pickup truck, billed as the first Toyota vehicle developed completely outside of Japan.

The new model replaces the Hilux Tiger in the market.

"This is a historic event and a new chapter in the history of Toyota," Toyota Motor Corp. Senior Managing Director Akiko Toyoda says.

A replacement for the Hilux pickup (above) is now in production in Thailand.

The Hilux Vigo was developed under Toyota's International Multipurpose Vehicle (IMV) program, which aims to use shared parts across its global network of factories to make vehicles at the lowest cost and fastest speed.

"This is the most truly global project that we have ever undertaken," Toyoda is quoted as saying. "The IMV program will take place in Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa and Argentina. Within one year, we will be marketing five IMV truck models in 140 nations."

The Hilux Vigo is produced at Toyota’s Samrong, Thailand, assembly plant, where capacity has been doubled to 280,000 units per year. Half of that is earmarked for export to 90 countries. Output includes production of an SUV model that will be added to the mix in 2005. Toyota Thailand also will produce diesel engines for both domestic and export markets.

Toyota Motor Thailand President Ryoichi Sasaki says the capital investment in the IMV project, including those of parts suppliers and affiliated companies, totaled 30 billion baht ($720 million). An additional 10,000 workers have been hired as part of the IMV project.

The domestic sales target for the Thai-built Hilux Vigo has been set at about 50,000 units this year.

Under the IMV program, Toyota expects to produce 490,000 trucks per year in four countries, Thailand, Argentina, South Africa and Indonesia.

Production of a minivan will start next month in Indonesia with annual output of 90,000 units, including 10,000 for export.

South African production is set to begin next year at 60,000 vehicles annually, including exports of 30,000 units. Argentinian operations are also due to start next year, with annual output of 60,000 trucks, including 45,000 to be exported. Both South Africa and Argentina will produce pickup trucks and SUVs.