Auto weekly wrap: Toyota Yaris, another stop-gap arrangement?

作者:SELMA    發表日期:2019-05-07 19:49:24

Slow and steady wins the race is the famed moral from one of Aesop’s many fables. But it does not seem to apply in modern times, especially when automobile companies race to meet India’s burgeoning demand.

Toyota Motor Corporation is very slow (takes pride in it) and steady but is far from winning the race in India. Earlier this week, Toyota Kirloskar, the subsidiary of the Japanese giant, unveiled prices of the Yaris, a mid-size sedan (its fourth sedan in India), before its official launch next month.

Introduction of this new Toyota is worthy to a note as the launch comes at a time when fewer people are buying such sedans and a full two decades after Honda launched its flagship City, India’s best-selling mid-size sedan ever.

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At Rs 8.75 lakh, the Yaris is Rs 16,000 cheaper than the City, which is priced at Rs 8.91 lakh (both base version petrol, ex-showroom Mumbai). With monthly volumes of just around 14,000 units, this segment has become the most hotly contested among all segments.

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Even as Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Hyundai Verna, Honda City, Fiat Linea, Nissan Sunny, Skoda Rapid and the Volkswagen Vento fight to be on the buyer’s list, Renault and Ford entered this segment only to make a quiet exit after repeated failures.

Since the segment is over-exploited, there is little chance that Yaris will deliver the success that Toyota has been waiting for in India. Its previous two India-centric products that took five years to launch – Etios and Liva – are at the bottom of the ranking table.

The Yaris launch coincides with the stellar rise in demand for compact SUVs, a segment for which Toyota does not have a ready product. It will have to wait for limited deliveries of the mini SUV Brezza from Maruti Suzuki for which it had signed a contract recently under a quid-pro-quo scheme.

Toyota RAV4 系列因款式型仔,價錢實惠,性能優異,自從 1994 年推出以來廣受車迷歡迎。今年全新的第五代大改款,在亞洲地區、甚至全球各地在預售期間都出現「未出車,已爆單」的情況。可見這款港幣只需約30 萬,車廂空間寬敞的 SUV 老牌車種是多受歡迎。

Despite being one of the earliest foreign car brands to enter India (debuted in 1997), Toyota has remained a fringe player. It has a domestic market share of just four percent. Shockingly, one of world’s top car makers has a limited product line-up.

In a market where more than 70 percent volumes accrue from compact hatchbacks, Toyota has only one product (Etios Liva) in that segment. The next three products (Etios, Corolla and Camry) belong to the sedan segment where has seen a decline in the last few years.

Innova Crysta is the only outlier in Toyota’s portfolio as it has remained the hot favourite in the cab space. Premium SUV Fortuner has generated success with its limited numbers, while the Land Cruiser Prado has too fewer buyers to boast off.

「Toyota is over cautious in its approach in everything it does. It has a well laid out, often cumbersome and an uncompromising process towards its business. It takes time and loads of patience to deal with them」, said an auto component maker from Maharashtra who bagged a contract to supply car parts after a three-year long process.

In comparison Toyota’s traditional Japanese rival Honda has been only slightly proactive in its India approach. The Delhi-based company has introduced newer products within a few months of their global debut and also experimented with Asia-centric products focused on the Indian buyer such as Amaze.

However like Toyota, Honda too lacks a strong local R&D unit that is capable of churning out products independent of support from its headquarters. Successful foreign brands such as Suzuki and Hyundai have built such capabilities locally.

Toyota will thus piggyback on Suzuki in the hunt for an instant India success in exchange for joint development of future technologies including electric and hybrid drivetrains. Till then, to keep the customer involved, the Japanese giant will have to make do with a stop-gap arrangement such as the Yaris.