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Daihatsu lights the way

Sirion soon: A new Daihatsu Sirion five-door is due in 2004.

Daihatsu embarks on a new model roll out to recover lost ground

8 Jul 2003

CHARADE may be Daihatsu's first all-new model since the Japanese small car specialist came under Toyota ownership in 1998, but it definitely won't be the last as Daihatsu strives to become Australia's leading light car importer.

The Copen road-ster continues the new model roll-out kicked off by this month's new Charade in November and a facelifted YRV mini people-mover is due in 2004.

But the updated YRV will be overshadowed the same year by a new Sirion five-door, which will share its underpinnings with the next Toyota Echo as a joint-venture small car.

A new Terios off-roader in 2005 will inject freshness into the Daihatsu brand, which has seen Australian sales fall from a height of 16,000 units in 1993 to a low of 5840 units in 2000.

At the same time, Daihatsu's national dealer network has shrunk from 132 outlets just three years ago to 87 currently - 50 per cent of which are now Toyota dealers.

Daihatsu Australia is likely to sell 7000 vehicles this year and hopes to emulate its halcyon sales era of the early 1990s - when it ranked as the fifth largest car manufacturer locally ahead of the likes of Honda and Mazda - by shifting at least 16,000 units annually by 2007.

Daihatsu Australia hopes cars like the new Charade, Sirion and Terios will spur growth - along with a number of behind-the-scenes changes - but admits the Daihatsu brand, Japan's oldest car company, has lost its identity due to increased competition and a lack of new models.

"It is no secret that Daihatsu was once the leading light car (or small car in those days) franchise in Australia," said Daihatsu senior manager Brad Larkham at the Charade launch.

"However, due to a number of reasons, not least the introduction of some stiff competition, the brand has slipped in the eyes of the Aussie small car buyer.

"(But) we anticipate seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting Daihatsu dealerships. In the long-term planning for the brand we have so far strengthened the management team at head and regional level to add support to the Daihatsu dealer network and operations (and) changed our advertising and PR partners to introduce fresh thinking.

"Our vision is this: Daihatsu will be the preferred franchise supplying light vehicles to the Australian market by the end of 2007.

"Now, 2007 sounds a long way off but when we say preferred we don't simply mean selling more cars than our competitors. We mean setting benchmarks in customer experience so people really like the idea of dealing with us.

"We know we have a long way to go but we are firm in our resolve and focussed in our efforts. Charade and Copen are simply the beginning of what will be a very exciting voyage."Daihatsu's national sales manager Wayne Gabriel is even more pointed in explaining where the Daihatsu brand went wrong.

"Over the past five years the names, or for a better word, badges that have been synonymous with Daihatsu and the basis of Daihatsu's success have slowly departed the ranks," he said.

"Rocky, Applause, Feroza, Charade and more recently Delta - the backbone of Daihatsu's historic growth as a brand - have disappeared.

"Not surprisingly, over the same period of time, Daihatsu's rapid sales growth - which at one point saw 16,000 Daihatsus registered that year - has fallen away."Daihatsu senior executive vice-president John Conomos said Charade and Copen would help reposition the Daihatsu brand to "top-of-mind" in the public perception, but ongoing rationalisation of the dealer network will continue.

"Toyota took on the (Daihatsu) franchise on the basis of achieving 16,000 to 20,000 sales. To help achieve this there will be greater harmony between brands and we are attempting to better integrate the Daihatsu brand with Toyota dealers," he said.

Despite playing only at the cut-throat, sub-1.3-litre end of the market, Mr Conomos said a full compliment of models by the time of Daihatsu's 100th anniversary in 2007 would aid the company's cause.

WHAT'S COMING
Copen roadster: November
YRV facelift: 2004
New Terios: Late 2005
New Sirion: 2004

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