N Raja, Senior Vice-President & Director (Marketing & Sales), Toyota Kirloskar Motor, spoke to Shobha Mathur on the 10-seater Hiace van on the sidelines of the SIAM Bus & Special Vehicle Show held last month in Delhi.
Which segment are you targeting with the Hiace?
We are targeting the premium transport segment. Foreign travellers coming to Delhi want to visit Rajasthan for 3-4 days and this is a 10-seater with ample luggage space. We are looking at high-end travel agencies, individuals who want special vehicles, big families, managing directors of companies and also embassies. Orders have not been finalised as yet as lot of things like customs duties and post-Budget scenario have yet to be finalised.
It is a very niche product and people who are using it right now in Delhi or Mumbai have brought it from Singapore or Thailand. It has a high life and can be driven 1,000km a day. We will not be looking at big numbers but at three digits starting at around 120 units to start with.
Will it be brought in as a CBU and when?
Yes, it will be brought in as a CBU from Japan by mid-2015. Our participation here is to understand what demand we can forecast and what numbers we bring in will depend on the analysis.
Will you look at local assembly to make the Hiace more affordable?
Later in 1-2 years. We have spoken to a number of prospective customers, especially tour operators in Delhi and Mumbai, and have got a very positive response. They are keen to know the price but we will be taking a call on that after the Budget on February 28. It is available only in diesel at present, with the same 3-litre powerful Fortuner engine.
What is its price globally?
Globally, in Thailand, it should be between Rs 20-25 lakh. When we bring it to India, there will be over 100 percent import duty, which will increase the price to Rs 40-50 lakh, while in Thailand due to local manufacturing there is zero duty.
How is it doing in Thailand?
Across the 140 countries where the Hiace is available, it is one of Toyota’s products that highlights the company’s quality, durability and reliability. In Thailand it is used for different applications — as a taxi, ambulance, for special purposes too. There is even customisation of seats in Thailand, so it is an all- purpose vehicle.
Will the government allow private registration of the Hiace as it is a ten-seater?
That is what we are studying right now. We need to put a yellow commercial board on it as you can’t register it privately. We are not yet talking to the transport department and are currently thinking of fleet operators. Since it is a niche product, our pricing has to get finalised first but financing opportunities will be present. Globally the largest markets for the Hiace are Thailand and the Middle East.