Yesterday’s announcement of 2014’s new vehicle sales results gave Toyota Australia a lot to brag about.
The Big T was the most popular brand across the country for the 12th consecutive year and the 18th year overall. It’s also the top seller in every state and territory.
Its 2014 tally of 203,501 sales was its 10th year of delivering in excess of 200,000 units, and put the Japanese car maker a whopping 97,409 sales clear of second-placed Holden.
Toyota’s market share of 18.3 per cent made it the only brand to hit double figures (Holden was next best with a 9.5 per cent share of the market).
It had three of the top 10 selling vehicles overall, including the compact Corolla, which was Australia’s favourite car for the second consecutive year, the HiLux ute in third place, and the locally built mid-size Camry sedan in eighth spot.
It was also the market leader in eight segments: small (Corolla), medium (Camry), sports (86), upper-large SUV (LandCruiser), light bus and van (HiAce), and 4×2 and 4×2 ute (HiLux).
And it was the market leader for passenger cars, SUVs and light-commercial vehicles – the latter a title it has held for the past 36 years.
It’s an enormously impressive honour role, and one that’s the envy of the entire industry.
But dig a little deeper and the picture isn’t quite as rosy as it appears on the surface.
Toyota’s 2014 sales were down 5.2 per cent compared with the previous year – a decline that’s more than two and a half times larger than the 2.0 per cent drop of the industry as a whole.
Its 203,501 tally was its third lowest since 2005, beating only its GFC-affected 2009 and natural disaster-hampered 2011.
Indeed, 2014’s result was only 1764 sales ahead of Toyota’s total from a decade ago in 2004 when the market totalled just 955,229 sales – meaning Toyota has effectively stagnated while other manufacturers have added more than 155,000 vehicles to the tally.
Unsurprisingly, Toyota’s market share is on the way down. In its record-breaking year in 2008 it sold 238,983 vehicles and its market share was 23.6 per cent, seemingly putting the magical 25 per cent mark within its grasp.
That has fallen away significantly since, however, to the 18.3 per cent figure achieved last year.
Thirteen of its 18 nameplates lost ground in 2014 compared with the previous year, the most significant being the 86 (4257 sales, down 36.5 per cent), Aurion (5163, down 24.5 per cent), Camry (22,044, down 11.3 per cent), FJ Cruiser (1840, down 29.5 per cent) and Yaris (12,779, down 11.5 per cent).
The only nameplates to post gains were the Corolla, HiAce, Prado, RAV4 and Tarago.
No one is more accutely aware of these less than positive statistics than Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb, who admits that, as a company, “we simply have to get better”.
“The level of competition in the market place and the segments in the market place since  have changed virtually totally, and the nature of competition here in Australia is very different,” Cramb said. “I think things like free trade agreements and exchange rates and all those sorts of things lead to those market shifts and changes.
“But the bottom line is the competition is stronger and we have to get better.
“The offering to the Australian market in 2014 compared with 2004 is dramatically different, the choice the consumer has is much wider, and I think in that period of time the quality of the opposition has improved, so we simply have to get better.”
With that objective in mind, Toyota is plotting plenty of change in 2015. It has already cut the price of its Japan-sourced vehicles – some by as much as $7630 – ahead of the finalisation of Australia’s free trade agreement with the Asian nation, and has embarked on a “once-in-a-lifetime” overhaul of the company’s culture to, in Cramb’s words, “lift our game”.
Toyota also plans to launch 10 new or updated models in Australia this year to freshen up its showrooms. (Read our 2015 Toyota New Cars feature for more details.)
The facelifted Prius C will arrive in the first quarter of 2015, followed around the middle of the year by the updated Prius V.
The 86 is also set to gain some extra equipment during the first quarter.
The big arrival will be the heavily revised 2015 Camry, which will begin rolling off the Altona production line in the second quarter of the year. It will be joined shortly after by an updated version of the larger Aurion.
Toyota remains coy about whether the all-new HiLux will reach our shores before the end of 2015. The new-generation ute will be unveiled globally at some stage this year, and is understood to be a chance to go on sale locally in the second half of the year in what would be a big boost for the brand.
Cramb believes all of those changes will help the company build on 2014’s result and claim a larger chunk of the market in 2015.
“I’m a Toyota guy. I always think we can lift our market share. We always have that aspiration.”