If a latest news story carried IndiaToday is to be believed, the Japanese automaker Toyota might go slow in the Indian car market. The news report mentions that Toyota Kirloskar Motors will not launch any new car for the next 3 years. Instead, the brand is said to be focused on improving the market share of the Etios sedan and the Liva hatchback, two low cost products that have failed to live up to the high expectations that Toyota products come with. This decision, especially coming from Toyota, is quite surprising to say the least given the big ambitions that this brand has had for the Indian car market.
So, that puts many prospective Toyota launches like the Etios based compact SUV and MPV under a cloud of uncertainty. When Toyota says that it will focus on improving the fortunes of the Etios and Liva, the automaker might be hinting at upgraded variants. Both the Etios sedan and the Liva hatchback are average sellers given that car buyers are exposed to much better products from the competition, stuff that is much more stylish and contemporary compared to the dated Toyota twins. While the Etios and Liva hatchback have the mighty Toyota brand behind them, sales of both these cars have been lesser than expected as the Indian car buyer has chosen other car brands like Maruti, Hyundai and Ford over Toyota.
The main issues with both the Etios and the Liva are the bare basic interiors and the numerous cost cutting bits across both the cars. While it is understandable that Toyota is targeting a wide swathe of buyers across age groups with the conservative styling, the Etios and the Liva simply don’t have the style that even budget car buyers are now demanding. The styling of both the cars are straight out of the early nineties, making the cars look quite dated, right from the word go. Also, the build quality of these cars feels cheap and un-Toyota like.
However, both the Etios and the Liva are very reliable cars, living up to Toyota’s reputation of building highly reliable cars. Toyota’s excellent after sales service also continues to remain the brand’s strong point. However, brands like Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai also offer good after sales service with both these brands outdoing Toyota in terms of their much wider pan-India reach. In India, the two strong selling products that Toyota has, are the Innova MPV and the Fortuner SUV. Apart from these two products, none of Toyota’s products in India are selling as briskly as the car maker would like them to.
Even the Innova’s sales have come under threat from recent the upstart, the Maruti Ertiga. More MPVs like the Chevrolet Enjoy and the Ashok Leyland Stile are all set to enter India in the next few months. The Fortuner too is facing new competition like the Ssangyong Rexton and the competition will only get higher with the arrival of the all new Ford Endeavour. The Corolla Altis is facing stiff competition from the likes of the Hyundai Elantra, which is now the new segment leader, and the Chevrolet Cruze.
Even as competition mounts, Toyota it seems wants to focus its energies on improving sales of existing products rather than launching new ones. We for our part, think that Toyota needs more exciting cars in India, rather than bland ones like the Etios and the Liva, if it wants to make a big splash in India. The “Qualis” strategy of bomb proof reliability and styling that will even bore grand parents can only take you so far, Toyota.