Toyota delivered 181,624 new passenger cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles across Australia in 2011, down 15.4 per cent from the 214,718 vehicles it sold in 2010. Toyota Australia executive vice president David Buttner attributes the majority of the losses to supply restraints stemming from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disasters in March, and to a lesser extent the floods in Thailand in the second half of the year.
“Toyota and Toyota dealers were often competing with both hands tied behind our backs,” he said. “Our ability to meet the demands placed on us was tested to the limit.”
With vehicle supply returning to normal levels, Buttner is hopeful of 2012 sales increasing more than 20 per cent this year. “I’d like to think we could get back above the 220,000 mark.”
Toyota’s share of Australia’s new vehicle market slipped from 20.7 per cent in 2010 to 18.0 per cent last year. Although its market share will be dependent on the rest of the industry, Buttner said Toyota’s 2012 share should be “in excess of 20 per cent” on the back of a number of new vehicle launches.
Late last year, Toyota introduced the Yaris light hatch and Camry medium sedan. This year it will add next-generation versions of the Hybrid Camry, Aurion and Corolla, as well as a number of all-new models like the Prius C, Prius V and the 86 sports car. Buttner says the “dramatic period of product renewal” is somewhat reminiscent of 2007 – the brand’s strongest year from a sales perspective – when it sold 236,647 vehicles.
He said achieving a 25 per cent share of the market remained a “medium-term” ambition. “Once we get all of our next-generation vehicles in the marketplace, once hybrid starts taking more bite in the Australian marketplace, then it’s a goal we’re not walking away from.” Buttner believes it will take four or five years for hybrids to begin to sell in serious volumes in Australia.
While Toyota’s position at the top of the local sales charts appears safe in the foreseeable future, Buttner says the company faces ongoing challenges from every brand in the market.
“You can’t sit back and take any competitor for granted. Look at Volkswagen’s growth this year; they’re like 17 per cent growth and they’re bringing great product to the marketplace. Hyundai’s doing a great job in the marketplace, Kia’s doing a great job, the Holden Cruze is selling very, very strongly as a locally manufactured product.
“Everyone in the marketplace is a threat, and if you sit back arrogantly and complacently and just say, ‘we’re dominant, we’ll stay there forever’, then you’ll always fall off the perch. So you have to be an innovator, you have to keep bringing new things to the market and you have to be first to market.”
The 86 is one example of Toyota Australia’s new push to be first to the market, and Buttner expects it to be the first of a new breed from the manufacturer.
“I’m really buoyed by our new president in Japan [Akio Toyoda] who has brought this passion for motorsport back to Toyota, and frankly we lost that. He wants to take the company back to the roots that his grandfather founded the company on: vehicles that are fun to drive and bring pleasure and enjoyment.
“The 86 is the first of that, and while I don’t know definitively, I would expect that we will get more products [like it].”
Among the disappointments for Toyota Australia in 2011 was the performance of the locally manufactured Camry and Aurion, which both declined more than 23 per cent. The Camry fell below 20,000 sales for the first time in recent history while the Aurion limped to fewer than 9000 units, but Buttner said the figures were not cause for concern.
“The key for us it to fill the manufacturing capacity at our Altona plant – we fill that either through exports or through domestic sales. Provided we have a good mix of both Camry and Aurion sales, we’re not hung up on the volume of each respective one.”
Despite this, Buttner says the launch of the new Aurion in April should lead to stronger sales in 2012. “We would expect to see an increase in those sales… We have much larger aspirations for that model.”
Toyota Australia produced approximately 100,000 vehicles in 2011 and it expects to make a similar number in 2012 thanks to stable export agreements. Around 95 per cent of its export vehicles are sold to the Middle East.