Toyota Hopes to Reinvent the Corolla for Younger Buyers with “Internet Ready” Model

Now that the millennials are the largest generation in recorded history, every car dealership should be asking the question: how do we sell cars to them? What do they want? Affordable payments, for starters, since they may have shaky credit that’s not yet well established. What else?

Toyota is betting that the millennial generation wants “Internet-ready” cars. In other words, pair the phone, log in to the apps and go (browsing, that is, not driving). The company is also betting that at the same time it can rebrand its Corolla Sedan, which is largely driven by people old enough to be millennials’ grandparents despite being the biggest selling model of car in the world. (The average Corolla driver is 70 years old, apparently.)

Bloomberg is reporting that this week, Toyota began selling a fully redesigned Corolla Sport hatchback as well as a new Crown (the company’s flagship sedan in Japan) as its first generation of fully connected cars. Toyota’s Data Communication Module hardware will come standard with the two new models, allowing owners to perform a variety of tasks through the platform’s T-Connect virtual assistant.

The Corolla’s chief engineer, Yoshiki Konishi, told attendees at a briefing last month that it hopes to keep its traditional buyers of the Corolla, but also rebrand to expand sales with younger generations of car buyers. While the services in the fully connected Corolla aren’t new, pulling them all together into one package labeled “Internet ready” is a significant branding effort.

Customers who buy the new fully kitted out Corolla will get the T-Connect service free for three years, according to Bloomberg. The goal – as with giving away six months of satellite radio – is to get buyers addicted to services like artificial intelligence-driven navigation assistance and a 24/7 live operator that can assist with road assistance, vehicle service and even finding restaurants.

The new Internet-ready Corolla will carry a starting price tag of 2.1 million yen, or about $19,000. In Japan, the company hopes to boost sales of the Corolla Sport to 2,300 per month in Japan, up from its current 1,000. In the U.S., Toyota is introducing the all-new Corolla Hatchback with the same goal of attracting young buyers. The Corolla Hatchback spec version has gathered significant praise from reviewers for its revamped design that is “sporty and youthful.”