Toyota has strongly defended the value of the large car market to the Australian automotive industry and has indicated its determination to increase its share.
It plans for its new Aurion – the local version of the 3.5-litre V6 Camry – to expand its share of the large car market to 15% in 2012 and to achieve further gains in its first full model year in 2013.
Toyota has set a total target of more than 200,000 sales in 2012 to support an ambitious global thrust of 8.5m deliveries worldwide.
The Australian sales plan is being backed by a substantial programme of dealer and factory development.
Toyota dealers currently have A$119m of works in progress and 13 new dealer sites are under development.
Toyota’s factory investment at Altona is headlined by a new A$300m plant to build four-cylinder Otto and Atkinson cycle engines.
The ramp-up to the launch of Toyota’s new portfolio of locally manufactured cars – Aurion, Camry and Camry Hybrid – has been described as the largest since Altona was commissioned in 1995.
Toyota’s commitment to local manufacture was resolute, said Toyota executive director sales and marketing Matthew Callachor.
“There has seldom been a greater period of change and adjustment in our operational procedures, and all are necessary to safeguard the future,” Callachor said.
The company on Monday controversially laid-off 350 workers, as signalled in January, sparking union threats to appeal to local tribunal Fair Work Australia .
Demand for large cars in Australia had fallen from 136,280 in 2006 when the Aurion was introduced, to 78,077 in 2011.
The large car market had dropped from being the second-largest in volume to being the sixth.
“Nonetheless, demand for nearly 80,000 vehicles is substantial and vital to the success of the total Australian market,” Callachor said.
“Even if the large car market was to diminish further it is a long way from becoming a niche segment and it deserves to be supported with models purpose-built for changing needs.”
Callachor said it was likely Toyota’s share of the segment would increase as customer requirements evolved.
“There was a time when the large car segment was the catchment for all-purpose utility sedans,” he said.
“They were referred to universally as family cars but they were also fleet cars and taxis.
“Those generalisations are gone; replaced by demand for larger small cars and SUVs, among others.
“As an example, there’s a proliferation of Prius taxis because they offer both space and economy at levels which equal, and in some cases better, traditional solutions.”
Callachor said the emerging large car segment was becoming a sub-luxury car tax haven in which buyers, both fleet and private, can attain high levels of specification and luxury without tax impost.
“There are people who want the power of a 3.5-litre V6 combined with exceptional fuel economy for the category,” he said.
“They want to tow, to cover long distances in safety and comfort, and to carry family-sized loads.
“Increasingly, vehicles like Aurion are affording that opportunity in packages which are prestigious and packed with features that enhance occupant pleasure.”
Toyota has delivered over 80,000 Aurions in Australia since the locally manufactured vehicle was introduced in October 2006.
It has produced more than 135,000 Aurions with almost 50,000 going for export.
Export demand has come from the Middle East, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands.
Almost half of Australia’s 2012 production will be exported.