Toyota to Now Focus on Safety Instead of Sales in India
The world's largest auto maker by volume, Toyota is making a strategic shift in India deciding to focus on safety and take a premium position in each of the segment it is present rather than chasing numbers. The company which is present in the Indian market through a joint venture with the Kirloskar group - Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) - has started offering airbags as standard across all its models sold in the country since the beginning of 2015.
"We want to bring safety and create awareness on it. Even the consumers are also beginning to realise the need for safety features now. So, we have started offering airbags as standard across all model range in all the variants of our vehicles since January," TKM Senior Vice-President & Director marketing and Sales Division N Raja told PTI.
He said although the government has been working on making airbags mandatory to enhance vehicle safety, it would take sometime.
But the company has gone ahead and taken the step keeping in view its long term goals in India. "We want to be leaders in technology and safety. Our product prices have obviously gone up for sure but we don't want to compromise on safety. Our aim is to offer value for money to our consumers," Raja said, adding the company's products would be at a premium compared to rivals in each of the segment it was present.
The company, which had launched models like mid-sized sedan Etios and hatchback Liva that were tailored for the Indian market as it was looking for volumes here, is now looking at different positioning. "The small car market which is about 75 per cent of the car market is maturing. With awareness on safety issues increasing and regulations likely to come in future, in three to four years the market will move up and that is where we want to be prepared for," he said.
When asked about the company's plans to enter new segments in India, he said Toyota's global senior management people have visited the country to analyse the market and discussions were ongoing. "However, for this year, we don't have any new model launches," Raja said, adding refreshed versions of its existing models, like it had done with Innova and Fortuner, would be continued.
On sales, he said, "We expect domestic sales to be flat since we don't have any new launches and also keeping in mind the overall macro economic conditions."
Last year TKM had sold 1.33 lakh units in the domestic market, while its exports were at 18,500 units. It exports the Etios sedan and Liva hatchback to South Africa. "We are making efforts to increase exports to around 20,000-24,000 units mark," he said.
On Budget expectations, Raja said the company was hoping that there would be some provisions to support eco-friendly vehicles like hybrids. "A government support to boost the hybrids will definitely be a welcome step," he said adding TKM's Camry hybrid has picked up sales to about 70-75 units a month from about 10-15 units earlier.