Australia’s biggest car maker says it will roll out new models as planned and is preparing for a return to normal once the COVID-19 crisis ends.
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While the car industry is bracing for a sales slowdown in April, Australia’s biggest automotive brand Toyota is already planning a return to normal business once the coronavirus crisis subsides.

Toyota, the market leader for the past 17 years in a row, says it still plans to launch its new models as scheduled later this year.

The all-new Toyota Yaris hatch is due in the coming months and CarAdvice understands an updated version of the Toyota HiLux ute, Australia’s top-selling vehicle outright for four years in a row, is due in the second half of the year.

“The second phase of this current crisis is that we know it will subside at some point,” said Sean Hanley, vice president, sales and marketing, Toyota Australia.

“We are acutely aware of the need to be planning for the flip side of this crisis. We are flexible and we are able to meet any scenario and adjust supply to meet demand … ready to turn the tap back on at any time.”

Mr Hanley added: “We as a company, like all other companies, are working to ensure we all get through this together.”

As of this week, Toyota says it has not altered its plans for new model launches. “This is of course a moving timeline, so we’ll continue to evaluate,” said Mr Hanley. “However, at this stage we are planning to continue to launch cars as we originally planned.”

Toyota – which posted a 1.6 per cent increase in sales last month in a market that declined by 17.9 per cent compared to the same month the previous year – says it will also continue to advertise during the coronavirus crisis, but its message will change.

“We are continuing to advertise … although we will move away from traditional retail advertising,” said Mr Hanley, adding that the company would “change its sentiment and tone … and move to more community-based advertising through April onwards.”

Toyota Australia’s most senior executives are meeting with the company’s national dealer council “every other day” rather than monthly, so they can respond to the changing market conditions and continue to deliver new cars.

Toyota says it has increased its focus on online access to customer enquiries for new-car sales, finance enquiries and trade-ins as the industry moves temporarily to a “contactless” business model.

“We know we’ve got to come up with the solutions to cater for customers who are either hesitant or physically unable to get to a dealership,” said Mr Hanley. “We need to come up with other ideas – that we can learn from other countries – that are quite advanced in this area.”

While Toyota has forecast the market will dip below 1 million sales for 2020 – the first time it has been in the six figure range since 2009 – it expects the recovery will be steady.

“What we know is that in uncertain times people make rational decisions and they turn to people and companies they trust,” said Mr Hanlety. “Toyota has built up incredibly high level of trust in Australia … and it is that level of trust that will enable us to recover quickly when circumstances allow.”