The end of Australian vehicle production has seen Toyota transform into an import-only brand, along with fellow former manufacturers Holden and Ford Australia.
It remains to be seen what impact the end of local manufacturing will have on Holden’s sales, but it’s almost one year since Ford closed the doors on its manufacturing program and the company’s sales are relatively steady at 60,465 year-to-date (down from 61,406).
As Australia’s long-time market leader and a favourite with fleet buyers, Toyota has long been able to rely on strong sales for its locally-built Camry, averaging close to 30,000 sales each year for the past decade.
Speaking with Australian media in Japan this week, Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief Sean Hanley said the company does not expect to see any negative impact on overall sales in the year ahead.
“Clearly, given the position of our Camry coming in – which is a high-spec car – clearly there will be some adjustment of our numbers. So we’re not going to be tallying the [circa] 30,000 we were doing with the LMs (local-manufacture models) each year. However, having said that, we don’t see our business going backwards overall,” he said.
“We see our business growing in the future, we’re planning to grow. We’ll do that by two factors: one, we’ll have some new product coming in the next three years. Not only that, we have the biggest car parc in the country right now, of sold cars. if you look at the seven-year car parc, Toyota is by far the biggest and has the greatest opportunity.”
Hanley said that over the last four years, the company has sold around 100,000 Camrys, giving the company – he hopes – the opportunity to “revisit our loyal customers” and move them into another new Toyota.
“We have such a broad range, such a large car parc, that we believe through loyalty and retention and product – and increased supply of C-HR that we haven’t had in great numbers this year at all – that we will continue to grow our business,” He said.
The idea of a more affordable variant in the popular C-HR compact SUV range was dismissed, however, with Hanley suggesting the only obstacle to growing sales for that model is limited supply. For its launch year, Toyota Australia could get only 6000 production slots for the C-HR.
So far, the company has moved 4108 C-HRs, and Hanley believes the 6000 limit will be hit before the year is out.
“We’ll sell 6000 this year… demand is outstripping supply, so… I’m not sure about the price argument. I’m not concerned at all about the pricing, but I think if we can increase our supply next year on that car, it’s capable of doing a lot more.”
But, whether it’s C-HR production hitting its limit or the larger RAV4 – unhindered by any such capacity issues – Hanley concedes the company’s position in the SUV segment could be stronger.
“It depends on model lifecycle, lots of things can contribute to that. We’re still number one in a lot of segments. Obviously we always strive to be number one in every segment, but the reality is it’s a very competitive market,” he said.
“I think though, if you can increase market share and grow your sales in any one year right now, in this environment, in this market, you’re doing well. Toyota’s up 5 per cent, and looks like it’ll increase its market share by 1 per cent year-on-year, heading towards 20 per cent again.
“We’ve got a challenge to get there still, there’s no doubt, but the business is not broken – the business is in good shape. Yes we’d like to be number one in SUV, but we’ve got formidable competitors. We think once we get good supply of C-HR, a couple of tech changes or facelifts [we’ll be on track].”
For now, clearly, Toyota has little to fear. The brand netted 17,377 sales in September alone, up 4 per cent against an overall flat market.
And, while the Ranger has mounted a challenge, the HiLux is likely to again be the country’s best-selling car by year’s end. Likewise, the Corolla remains hugely popular among small cars, outselling the Mazda 3 in September (3055 to 2766, followed by i30 on 2300). The Kluger and Prado are both also leaders in the large SUV segment, on 1113 and 1070 sales in September.