Toyota Beats the Odds

Recession? What recession, as Toyota sells up a storm

Despite concerns from some quarters that life after recession is still subject to depression, mainly amongst mid-level executives, Toyota has bounced into Spring with podium finishes for its HiLux and Corolla that helped the company extend its sales leadership (YTD August 2010) to more than 50,000 vehicles.

Toyota entered spring having sold more than 141,000 new cars, SUVs and light-commercial vehicles in 2010.

This puts Toyota more than 56 percent ahead of its nearest rival, which has sold just over 90,000 vehicles.

HiLux remains Toyota’s best-selling vehicle in 2010, with almost 3,000 sales in August, lifting its 2010 total beyond 27,400.

Corolla did even better in August, topping 3,500 sales, for a year-to-date total in excess of 26,000.

Other Toyota vehicles that led their respective segments in August were Camry, LandCruiser 200 Series, HiLux 4×4, HiAce van and HiAce bus.

Toyota is on track for its eighth straight year of market leadership and its seventh year, in a row, in which it has exceeded 200,000 sales. Toyota-Hilux_2

The company’s vehicles have headed the sales charts in each of the past 65 months – an unbroken run stretching back to early 2005.

Toyota Australia senior executive director sales and marketing, David Buttner, was nothing less than bullish, telling Delivery magazine the results were due to Toyota’s wide range and high quality of vehicles, a customer-focused dealer network and competitive marketing offers.

“The improving economy, supported by solid business and consumer confidence, was also significant,” he said.

So, with David Buttner’s words echoing through the corridors of power at Toyota, let’s have a look at what the HiLux and HiAce range does have to offer.

We’ll start with a breakdown of the sales performance, and in the light van market Toyota has climbed back into the ring with a sales performance of 33.2 percent for the HiAce van, achieving 5,299 sales.

Hyundai is in second place, scoring a sales performance of 4,224 units and taking a market share of 26.5 percent, ahead of the Ford Transit at 7.2 percent and 1,154 registrations. The Volkswagen Transporter made 1,105 registrations for a market share of 6.9 percent.

Mitsubishi’s aging Express is extremely valiant in remaining in the battle for sales, and although its market share has dropped by almost four percent and 600 units to 5.9 percent, it’s still ahead of Mercedes-Benz with its Vito that dropped one full percentage point for a share of 4.4 percent to retail 704 units.

The remaining European players of Peugeot, Citroen, Renault and Fiat are just not appearing high up on the wish list of buyers, probably due to the major focus of each of their respective companies to market their passenger cars first and leave the light commercials to their own devices. Not having a shop front presence in the high street is also not helping them make an impact.

In the light bus market, the HiAce has 94.7 percent, and, with sales of 1,594 units, it dominated this segment with only Ford’s Transit competing and managing just 89 sales. You have to question here, just what is the problem with the European manufacturers? They have highly competitive products but just don’t seem to spend the time, or the effort, on marketing their advantages.

The people mover market, under $55,000, actually runs at a slightly lower seating capacity and includes products like Toyota’s Tarago, Volkswagen’s Caravelle, the Vito Wagon, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai’s iMAX and the Kia Carnival. The big performers in this category are the Koreans, with Kia’s carnival holding 29.1 percent market share, for volumes of 2,323 sales, and Hyundai’s iMAX with 21.9 percent and sales of 1,753. Toyota’s Tarago manages third place with 13.3 percent market share, and volumes of 1,063, while none of the other players get into four figures.

When you upscale to over $55,000, it’s dominated by Volkswagen and the Multivan, with 44.7 percent market share and a volume of 223 units, ahead of Chrysler’s Voyager at 187 units, for a market share performance of 37.5 percent.Toyota-Hilux_1

And now for the ute market, where HiLux is Toyota’s largest selling product in the Australian market.

Fortunately for the Japanese manufacturers, the Koreans have not really turned their attention to utes, with only SsangYong offering a product in this segment. China’s Great Wall Motors is on the march, but it’s early days before Australia warms to all Chinese takeaway alternatives.

In the 4×2 ute market it’s Hilux in first place, with 25.6 percent of market share and sales volumes of 10,400. In second place, it’s Australia’s own Commodore ute with 19.9 percent market share and sales of 8,164, ahead of the Falcon ute with 15.2 percent share for sales of 6,235.

When you add all-wheel drive to the ute offerings, the competition is dominated by Japanese manufacturers, even though they choose to actually make most of their products in Thailand.

HiLux takes first place again with 27 percent market share and sales volumes of 16,960 units, ahead of Nissan Navara with 20.9 percent and sales of 13,154 units. Holden’s Colorado takes third place with 12.2 percent and 7,699 sales, ahead of Mitsubishi’s Triton with 10.5 percent and 6,628 units. Nipping at the heels of the Triton is the Ford ranger with 6,231 sales and a market share of 9.9 percent.

So, what is it that takes the HiLux on a relentless pursuit of global dominance?

At Delivery we reckon it’s perseverance, aligned with good product and a sales team that truly believes it’s the toughest and the best ute on the market.

For those readers who already have a love affair with their HiLux, there’s something special in the pipeline.

After proving its exceptional toughness in some of the world’s harshest environments, the go-anywhere HiLux will be a feature of the Toyota stand at this year’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

This is no ordinary Hilux as it is the first actual vehicle to reach the Magnetic North Pole.

The endurance drive, undertaken for the BBC’s Top Gear by Jeremy Clarkson and James May, was accomplished in a vehicle specially adapted to cope with the extreme terrain and temperatures which dropped as low as -36C.

The expedition featured two Hilux Invincible Double Cab 3.0-litre D-4D models, plus a Land Cruiser 3.0 D-4D. All the vehicles were prepared for the trip by specialists Arctic Trucks, based in Reykjavik, and shipped to Resolute in Nunavut province, Canada.

The drive coincided with the 2007 Polar Challenge, a ski race for amateur teams. The event’s leaders provided the expedition with invaluable support and advice.

The 360-nautical mile route demanded careful planning and throughout the journey scouts were deployed on snowmobiles to recce the landscape and plot the best course. Before setting out, doubt was cast on the likelihood of the pole being reached, with pilots reporting poor ice conditions and local weather forecasters declaring that in many places the sea ice would be too thin in late April to bear the weight of the vehicles.

Arctic Trucks Chairman Emil Grimsson, who advised and accompanied the expedition, said: “about 180 miles into the journey, the ice north of Helena Island was unusually bad with very large boulder fields that were hostile to anything moving. Our other challenge was that we were taking with us a film crew and their equipment and spending time to meet their shooting requirements.

“Although at times the terrain looked impassable, the vehicles and drivers always stood up to the challenge. Flatter areas also posed a risk, with many hidden ice blocks. Hitting these at speed sent large shocks through the suspension and at times the Hilux was airborne.

“It was a great adventure, though, and we had to watch out for polar bears every step of the way.”

On reaching the pole, the Hilux bore the scars of its gruelling trek, but was in good enough shape to complete the return journey to Resolute Bay with no mechanical problems.

Before the trip the Hilux front suspension was lowered by 50mm, moved 40mm forwards and given an additional 40mm of lift. At the rear longer, more pliant leaf springs were fitted, with heavy duty long travel bump stops and specially tuned shock absorbers.

The standard Hilux Invincible 16inch wheels and 255/65 R16 tyres were replaced with bespoke Arctic Trucks aluminium wheels with two valves per wheel. These were shod with Arctic Trucks AT405 38-inch studded snow tyres, running at pressures as low as 4psi to give good flotation over snow.

The 3.0-litre D-4D engine was a standard 169bhp unit, but modified to cope with the ultra-low air temperatures. An auxiliary heater was added to boost coolant temperature before starting, together with fuel heaters and a heavy duty battery.

The air intake was raised and a special exhaust system fitted, Arctic Trucks 4.88:1 ring and pinion differentials were used, with front and rear diff locks with cold weather preparation. The vehicle ran on specially blended diesel, with an auxiliary 100-litre fuel tank increasing total capacity to 180 litres. The Hilux used a standard four-speed automatic transmission.

Flared wheelarches protected the balloon tyres and a bull bar was fitted to the front with lifting points. Winch mounts were fitted front and rear. The front bumper, front suspension, transmission and transfer case were protected by heavy duty skid plates, made of 5mm thick aluminium, and stronger running boards were added.

The Hilux carried a wide range of kit designed to address the special risks of driving in such extreme conditions. These included the latest Garmin GPS navigation system, Iridium telephone, VHF two-way radios and three bespoke on board cameras. An auxiliary electric system with a 220V inverter was added to provide adequate charging power for the camera equipment.

The teams were accompanied by a doctor and an arctic expert who travelled with survival equipment, including tents, special sleeping bags and heaters. Should the vehicle become stranded, the extensive recovery kit included chain saw, axes, shovels, snow anchor, crowbars, high lift jack and winch. Shotguns were also carried, for protection should a polar bear attack.

HiLux had the measure of every challenge as it became the first car to reach the Magnetic North Pole. It also proved to be the perfect transport for scientists racing to set up monitoring equipment at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Mastering these conditions, the Hilux made its way towards the fiery heart of the volcano, arriving just hours before the long-dormant mountain blew its top and sent a vast cloud of ash 10,000 metres into the sky.

The ash-filled atmosphere brought chaos to the skies of Europe with massive disruption to airlines and travellers around the world.

The Australian International Motor Show in Sydney runs from October 15-24.

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