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Next Toyota Yaris set for 2011 launch

Change up: Toyota's current Yaris and an image of the 2011 Yaris (far left) revealed on French automotive website www.Turbo.fr.

Toyota on countdown to third-generation Yaris as it steps up counter-attack

Toyota logo19 Oct 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

TOYOTA’S fight to regain its light-car crown will start in earnest next September when its third-generation Yaris hits the Australian market to take the battle up to a proliferation of new contenders, including the just-released Holden Spark and Nissan Micra.

The Australian subsidiary of the Japanese giant is also eyeing a new sub-Yaris light car being developed by Toyota to counter the new breed of city cars such as the Suzuki Alto and Splash, Hyundai i10 and three-cylinder Micra.

The new sub-compact vehicle could be joined in production in Thailand by the Yaris and Corolla as Toyota strives for cheaper manufacturing bases for its smaller cars – currently built in Japan for Australia – in the face of hot competition from rivals sourced from Thailand, India, Korea, Malaysia and, within months, China.

Pictures of the next Yaris have surfaced overseas, apparently taken from a leaked dealer brochure. They reveal a more angular design that shares several styling cues with the Verso-S mini people-mover that Toyota revealed at the recent Paris motor show.

While the front openings, bonnet and body behind the C-pillars are unique, hard points such as the glasshouse and doors indicate that the two vehicles are coming off the same base.

Reports also suggest a hybrid version of the Yaris is waiting in the wings for a 2012 launch. With promised 2.5 litres per 100km fuel economy, the Yaris hybrid would be considerably more frugal than Toyota’s current hybrid champion, the Prius (3.9L/100km), not to mention cheaper.

As GoAuto reported last week, Toyota Australia has slashed the prices of its current Yaris and Corolla ranges to keep sales on the boil.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota Verso-S, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Micra, Holden Barina Spark.

Yaris sedan and hatch prices have been cut by up to $950 while the number of airbags fitted as standard has been increased on some models – a move Toyota says has improved Yaris value by up to $1700.

The cuts, announced at the Australian International Motor Show on Friday as Holden and Nissan were tugging the covers from their new Spark and Micra ranges, pull the entry-level price for the three-door Yaris YR down to $14,990 – equivalent to 2005 launch prices.

The reductions are designed to keep the smallest Toyota competitive in its final year, and somewhere near the top of the sales ladder, where it and its predecessor, the Echo, have resided since 2003.

Last year, Yaris was pipped by Hyundai’s Getz for the light-car sales crown, but of more concern to Toyota will be the decline in segment market share from about 25 per cent in 2006 to 15.5 per cent so far this year.

GoAuto understands that the new Yaris, which is also known at the Vitz hatchback and Vios sedan in some other markets, will debut at the 2011 Geneva motor show in March ahead of mid-year launch in markets such as Japan before Australian sales begin in about September.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief David Buttner said at the Sydney show the next-generation Yaris was “not very far away”.

“But we are focused on this current vehicle now to make sure it has got the specification to go head-to-head with the competitors while still offering value for money,” he said.

“We are getting closer, but we keep doing everything we can with the current product until we get that next generation.”

Mr Buttner did not rule out switching sourcing of Yaris and its bigger stablemate Corolla from the current high-cost Japanese factory to a more affordable production base in Asia.

He said a “definitive change” had come over motor industry sourcing in recent years, with imported pick-ups – including Toyota’s top-selling HiLux – almost entirely now sourced from Thailand and passenger cars also increasingly coming out of Asia.

“We are seeing vehicles coming out of India, although not to any great extent yet,” said Mr Buttner.

“Certainly there is a change in global sourcing patterns, and I am sure Toyota will be observing and understanding what our competitors are doing and looking at what we have to do to maintain our number one position.”

Toyota’s Chachoengsao plant in Thailand already makes the Yaris sedan – called Vios – as does its Tiajin plant in China.

While Mr Buttner all but ruled-out Toyota’s European sub-Yaris iQ mini-car for Australia on cost grounds, he hinted that an alternative was being developed that might be more suitable.

“We have been looking in the sub-compact area for some time,” he said. “It is no doubt an emerging segment in the Australian marketplace, with the Suzuki Alto and some other products that are coming.

“TMC has some plans on the drawing board, but I have nothing I can share with you today.”

Asked if such a vehicle existed for Asian production, he said: “There is a vast proliferation of models being developed around the world, and we are always privy to what they are and we make our pitch.

“Everything depends on volume, landed cost and production cost of the vehicle. You can’t have vehicles uniquely designed for your market if your volumes (are insufficient) to get a return on the investment required to develop that vehicle. But we are always watching.”

Asian reports say Toyota’s forthcoming Etios small car, which was revealed in concept form in India in January and will be officially released there in December, will also be manufactured in Thailand for South-East Asian markets to counter vehicles such as the Alto.

The Etios, with a choice of 1.2-litre and 1.5-litre four-cylinder engines, is also expected to be made in China and Brazil for those emerging markets.

Toyota executive vice-president Yukitoshi Funo was quoted by Bloomberg as describing the new car as the “21st century Corolla”.

“We have to enter the large-volume zone,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Mr Buttner has not ruled out the hybrid version of the Corolla small car, known in Europe as the Auris HSD, but said it was not yet in the company’s product model plan to 2014.

“There is an Auris available, but at this stage we don’t have a definitive plan in our model plan through to 2013-14, but model plans are flexible,” he said“You grab what you can when you can, and continue to make your pitches to bring to market products that excite our consumers.”

Mr Buttner said Toyota was on record as saying it was planning to launch another six hybrid models by 2012, five of which were expected to make it to Australia in the next six years under Toyota or Lexus badges.

One of these could be a Prius hybrid MPV that Toyota plans to reveal at the Detroit motor show in January.

Toyota US used social networking sites to reveal a glimpse of the new MPV – which some overseas reports have dubbed Alpha – hidden behind a current Prius on a jigsaw puzzle billboard with the caption: “The Prius family is getting a whole lot bigger.”

With similar dimensions to the Mazda5 – not sold in Australia – speculation is that the Prius MPV might get a larger petrol engine to cope with extra bulk of the vehicle over the passenger car original.

Some reports suggest the vehicle could get three rows of seats, but with the teaser image indicating a vehicle just a few centimetres longer than the Prius, that could be a squeeze.

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