In a telling tale of sorts, two major emerging car markets of the world, India and Brazil, have both given the thumbs down to the Toyota Etios hatchback, also known as the Liva in the Indian car market. In both these markets, the Etios hatchback has been comprehensively outsold by more contemporary looking cars. In Brazil, the Etios has been outsold by the likes of the Chevrolet Onix and the Hyundai HB20. In India too, cars like the Maruti Swift and the Hyundai i20 are running rings around the Liva hatchback when it comes to sales and it isn’t surprising at all.
The Etios platform was conceived as a low cost car platform mainly for emerging markets like India, Brazil and South Africa. While the cars showcased at the 2010 Indian Auto Expo garnered much excitement, the launch of the Etios sedan disappointed both prospective buyers as well as Brand Toyota fans in India. The over arching opinion about the Etios sedan and the Liva hatchback in India is one of Toyota overdoing the cost cutting bit. Both cars come with a tinny build quality that feels cheap while the interiors too are low rent items with none of the premium-ness that one tends to associate with Toyota cars in India.
While it is of another matter that Toyota is not exactly a premium brand in most parts of the world, the car maker’s focus on quality and premium pricing has meant that Indian car buyers now expect a modicum of finesse in every Toyota car sold in the country. It was this lack of finesse that has cost the Etios twins dearly and it isn’t market share alone that Toyota is losing by dishing out such insipid fare in the Indian car market. Mind share, a core aspect of branding is another thing that cars like the Etios and Liva will result in eroding for Toyota.
Cars like the Etios and the Liva has meant that Toyota is slipping from its position of being an aspirational brand that reeks of quality. While Toyota still has cars like the Innova, Corolla Altis and Fortuner to maintain the reputation it has earned in India, the Etios twins does leave one with a bad after taste of sorts. While Toyota plans to make amends by improving the quality of the Etios twins’ interiors in the coming months, the effort seems much like a half hearted one as it will take more than just revamped interiors to win back the Indian car buyer, who is being serenaded with cars like the Hyundai i20 and the Swift Dzire.