Toyota bets big on the Yaris in India

by Shubham Parashar 16 Jun 2018

Toyota Kirloskar Motor is bullish on the sales prospects of the recently launched Yaris midsize sedan as it expects the car to challenge the competition in the B+ segment in the domestic market.

The Japanese carmaker is betting on the safety-laden Yaris to make a difference in the Indian market. With seven airbags as standard fitment from base trim, the Yaris gets an edge over its immediate rivals such as the Honda City, Maruti Ciaz and Hyundai Verna.

Launched at introductory prices, starting from 875,000 (ex-showroom India) for its base manual transmission variant, and going upwards to Rs 1,407,000 for the top-end CVT trim, the Yaris will be looking to make a strong impression with families who are big buyers in the midsize sedan market which is a 200,000 units per annum space within the growing passenger vehicle segment.

“We hope to service all customer orders soon which will take us amongst the top three in sales in the premium B petrol sedan segment,” said N Raja, deputy MD, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. The company is intentionally offering the Yaris as a petrol-only vehicle since over 80 percent of the sedans sold in the B+ segment are petrol variants.

The Toyota Yaris is a late entrant into the competitive midsize sedan market in India but in an effort to give it an edge over rivals, the carmaker has given it a host of segment-leading features like an electric driver's seat, roof-mounted AC vents and gesture control for its touchscreen infotainment screen.

In May 2018, Toyota Kirloskar Motor registered year-on-year growth of 20.15 percent, with sales of a total of 13,113 units. These include 4,000 units of the Yaris to dealers across India. The number also substantiates Raja’s statement and is an indication of the competition intensifying in the midsize sedan segment.

In April 2018, in the petrol-engined midsize sedan segment, the Maruti Ciaz was the segment leader selling 3,979 units, followed by the Honda City at 2,759 units and the 2017 Hyundai Verna with 1,865 units. All the three cars had also maintained the same standings in FY2018.

Walking the safety talk
What comes as a welcome departure from the norm is the carmaker's heightened focus on safety. In addition to ABS and EBD, Toyota has opted to equip the Yaris with all of seven airbags
(driver, passenger, two side, two curtain and knee) as standard fitment right from the base variant. Although most mass automakers in India have begun actively promoting passenger safety, they still don't have more than two airbags as standard on the base trims of their vehicles. The same goes for the key competitors of the Yaris – Hyundai Verna, Honda City and Maruti Ciaz.
The list of safety features on the Yaris gets further exhaustive,
also including front parking sensors, which are not only a first in the segment, but are also being made available right from the base ‘G’ variant. The sedan also gets all around disc brakes on its top ‘V’ and ‘VX’ trims, clearly setting a precedent for offering top-notch safety in the segment.

While the top trims also get ESP, traction control, hill start assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system, like its competitors, the Yaris offers ABS with EBD and Isofix child seat anchorages as standard to ensure optimal occupant safety. With all the safety
kit on-board, it is rather unsurprising then that the made-in-Thailand current-generation Toyota Vios (christened the Toyota
Yaris in India) had passed the ASEAN NCAP with flying colours, scoring a full 5-star rating on the safety watchdog’s crash test

Toyota’s confidence in the Yaris stems from the fairly large number of bookings the Yaris has received as also over 60,000 enquiries. At the car’s launch on May 18, Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, had confirmed delivering around 1,300 units of the Yaris.

According to a Delhi-based dealer, there is a waiting period of over two months for the Yaris as Toyota has received over 7,200 bookings across India. It is understood the sedan is seeing robust demand in South India, followed by the Delhi-NCR region. “Over 1,000 units of the Yaris were booked in the Delhi-NCR itself within the first 20 days of the price announcement,” said one of the company’s spokesperson.

Adding to that, Viswanathan affirmed having received over 60,000 enquiries for the Yaris and is expecting it to push volumes of the midsize sedan segment. “In India what happens is that when a new product is launched, it expands the segment and the Yaris is likely to do that,” said Viswanathan.

Expecting additional demand to come its way from the Yaris, the Japanese carmaker has confirmed increasing manufacturing capacity utilisation by 40,000 units at its Bidadi plant, which has a total installed capacity of 210,000 units per annum. Other models assembled at the Bidadi plant – Etios Liva, Etios, Corolla Altis and Camry Hybrid – haven’t really set the sales charts afire, resulting in underutilisation of the plant capacity. Toyota thus far has been utilising barely 30 percent of the 210,000 units production capacity.

Yaris as a sales accelerator
Toyota is banking on the Yaris to give it a new charge in the domestic market. Other than the popular Innova MPV and Fortuner SUV, its other models have not lived up to the company’s expectations. In FY2018, the company sold a total of 140,645 units, which marked a decline of 1.90 percent over year-ago sales. The company expects sales to grow at 9 percent this year. “The industry is expected to grow around 8-9 percent during calendar year 2018 and we will keep pace with the industry,” said Raja.

For the April-May 2018 period, Toyota Kirloskar Motor has sold 26,150 units (+9.52%), which gives it a 4.36 percent share of the passenger vehicle market.

In the segment where OEMs typically offer sunroof and LED lamps
as contemporary features to lure buyers, the Yaris targets a more conservative set of customers, who are primarily looking for
an extremely safe familysedan, backed by good engineering and the assurance of Toyota's fuss-free ownership experience.

Could Toyota’s focus on safety be the key differentiator for the Yaris in India? You can bet Toyota’s rivals are just as keen to know the answer to that question.

(With inputs from Mayank Dhingra and Nishant Parekh)



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