• Kyodo

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The Brazilian subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will stop production in December of a four-wheel-drive vehicle that has been a symbol of the local car industry.

The Bandeirante has been a legend in Brazil since the first units, powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine, rolled off Toyota’s local plant in November 1961.

The plant, located in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, represents a special conquest for the carmaker, being its first Bandeirante model-manufacturing unit outside Japan.

Toyota will use the plant where the Bandeirante is manufactured to make parts for its Corolla car produced in another plant in the municipality of Indaiatuba, some 120 km northwest of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s industrial heartland.

The plant will also supply parts for the Bandeirante as well as for the Hilux pickup that Toyota manufactures in a plant in Argentina.

Toyota do Brasil Ltda. has made more than 104,000 units of the Bandeirante used mainly by farmers, mining companies, police and armed forces around the country.

The Bandeirante, now equipped with a Toyota 14B engine, sells at between $17,000 and around $22,200. It is a nearly original reproduction of the 25th version of the Land Cruiser, now marketed in its 100th version.

“The engine we use in this model will exceed the limits established by a gas-emission law that goes into effect in 2002,” said Hiroyuki Okabe, the chairman of Toyota’s local subsidiary.

Toyota’s engineers had been attempting to solve the problem since 1999 in order to keep production going.

“We could adopt another motor, try to make the current motor meet the new legislation or even replace the Bandeirante with a more modern version of the Land Cruiser family,” Okabe said.

However, all the attempted solutions have failed to reach the necessary commercial and economic viability for the model, he said.

The pioneer vehicle for the Brazilian market is widely employed in rural areas located from the remote outskirts of the Amazon rain forest region to the plantation fields in the wild Pantanal wetlands.

The vehicle has been named after the bold explorers who wandered around the country’s hinterland searching for gold, silver and diamonds shortly after the first Portuguese settlers arrived in the 16th century.

The Brazilian plant has exported a few units of the Bandeirante to other South American countries, including Venezuela, and to nations in Africa, including Angola, that have similar terrain to Brazil.

According to Toyota do Brasil, some 60 percent of the Bandeirante models traded in the country since the beginning of the production are still in operation.

Brazilians will certainly miss the old pickup, which people here say is fit to go anywhere, anytime.

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