2017 Corolla 50th Anniversary Edition: History’s most ubiquitous car has a senior moment
In 1957, Bell Telephone created an advertisement that rescued the word ubiquitous from obscurity. It was a cartoon-style print ad that showed two guys walking past a telephone booth, one of them saying “telephones are ubiquitous?” and the other agreeing: “yes, telephones are ubiquitous.”
Telephones are far more ubiquitous today than they were in 1957, but that word could also be applied to the Toyota Corolla, which will be celebrating its 50th birthday at the New York Auto Show. And as you’d expect, the celebration will include a special anniversary edition of the bestselling car on the planet.
Offered in three hues, including a dark cherry finish exclusive to the anniversary model, the semi-centennial package is based on SE trim and will include a number of features from the high end of the Corolla inventory. Examples: Toyota’s Entune Audio with navigation, a 7-inch high-res color touch screen in the center dash, and a 4.2-inch TFT color multi-information display sandwiched between the tachometer and speedometer.
The black interior décor is distinguished by black cherry stitching on seats, steering wheel, and shift boot along with black cherry accents on the dashboard and door panels, and 50th anniversary floormats.
Exclusive exterior elements include machine finish 17-inch alloy wheels, and of course 50th anniversary badges. Toyota plans to limit the run to 8000 copies.
Freshened Standard Version
Concurrent with the anniversary edition, Toyota’s will offer a modestly freshened version of the standard Corolla. Updates include a new and more assertive front fascia, a la Camry; two grades of LED headlamps; interior upgrades; audio enhancements; and a standard back-up camera.
Available safety features have been expanded to include Toyota Safety Sense P. Introduced on the new Prius, the system combines pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; lane departure warning with lane assist; and automatic high beam headlights. Safety Sense P will be offered on all six Corolla trims.
The Corolla made its debut in 1966 as a rear-drive subcompact, assembled at a brand-new factory in Takaoka, Japan. Corollas still roll off the line at Takaoka, but in the half-century since then production has expanded to 15 other factories worldwide, including a new one in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
From the start, Corolla sales exceeded Toyota’s expectations, soon accounting for more than half of the company’s annual production. Corollas appeared in U.S. showrooms for the 1968 model year, and quickly became Toyota’s second best seller in the America. By 1970, worldwide Corolla sales topped one million.
Besting the Beetle
Momentum continued to build, and in 1997 total Corolla sales surpassed those of the original air-cooled VW Beetle on the all-time bestseller list, and continued to move ahead, even though the Beetle stayed in production until 2003.
Beetle sales topped out at 21.5 million. Now in its 11th generation, Corolla sales stood at 43.1 million through 2015, and are still going strong, at an annual rate of about 1.5 million worldwide, which includes some 150 different countries, according to Toyota. It could be argued that the Beetle was a single vehicle type -- air-cooled rear engine, two doors -- whereas the Corolla badge has adorned many different body styles. But it’s hard to argue with numbers of that magnitude. Ubiquitous indeed.
The anniversary edition and freshened standard Corolla will go on sale this fall, as 2017 models.