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Mazda3 in box seat for top sales crown: Toyota

Back for seconds: Toyota believes production constraints at its Thailand plant will push the HiLux ute to second place on the Australian sales chart for 2012, behind the Mazda3.

HiLux supply issues force Toyota to expect second place in sales race behind Mazda3

General News logo19 Oct 2012

TOYOTA does not believe its resurgent HiLux utility will secure the title of ‘Australia’s Top Model’ this year, despite a dominant performance on the new-vehicle sales charts throughout most of 2012.

Although buyer demand for HiLux remains strong, Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Matthew Callachor said constraints with the utility’s production source in Thailand will likely see it settle for second place behind the Mazda3 small car at the end of the calendar year.

Mr Callachor said a softening mining sector is also likely to have an impact on HiLux sales, although this is not expected to kick in until next year.

“We still have good order banks for the vehicle, but we’re strictly limited on supply at the moment,” he said.

“I don’t think we can get the production at this moment to get to number one. We have got an increase in production (coming), but still I just don’t think it’s enough.”

After battling lingering supply problems from last year’s flood disaster in Thailand, HiLux sales ramped up in the second quarter to overtake the Mazda3 and all other contenders for five months straight from April through to August, although the small car hit back with a record 4276 sales last month compared to the big ute’s 3479, placing it 375 units ahead in this year’s race for the top-selling vehicle – 31,439 to 31,064.

For HiLux, that represents a 23 per cent sales increase in the 4x4 segment alone, while Mazda3 – which stole the number-one crown last year from the Holden Commodore (with 41,429 new registrations) – is up 3.2 per cent year to date.

Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson is not r5eady to claim victory, telling GoAuto at this week’s Sydney motor show that he believed HiLux was well placed to take the title given its string of monthly wins this year.

“It’s still too close to call,” he said.

“HiLux has done brilliantly. They’ve been on pole five months of the last six, and are in fact selling more (in total) than we have been over the past couple of months, so it’s anybody’s guess.”

Mr Dickson said Mazda Australia had an adequate supply of its small car to see out the year, and noted that Toyota might experience a setback with HiLux as a result of difficulties in the mining sector.

Mr Callachor acknowledged that the mining industry had “come off its peak” but said he “can’t see any impact this current calendar year”.

“It could have an impact next year, but it’s a little hard to say as to what level it’s going to settle at,” he said.

“Personally, I don’t think the mining industry has collapsed by any stretch I think it’s just finding a sustainable level moving forward.”

He also said HiLux had moved beyond being “simply a heavy-duty workhorse in mining-related areas”.

Toyota Australia anticipates total brand sales of more than 200,000 vehicles this year, which takes it back to 2010 volume and within sight of its all-time high of 214,718 new registrations recorded in 2009. Last year, the Thai and Japanese natural disasters restricted sales to 181,624 units.

Mr Callachor stopped short of predicting record sales in 2013, saying that production volumes of Corolla and RAV4 were still to be finalised, but stressed “we’ll certainly improve upon this year”.

“We’re going to have a full year of Corolla, the introduction of a new RAV4 (in the first quarter) and also a full year of Camry and Aurion as well,” he said.

“It’s difficult to say right at this juncture (exact numbers), because it also depends upon the market size, but I can’t see any reason why the market should drop beneath this year’s level.

“In our case, we’ll be definitely up on this year.”

Mr Callachor said the company was pleased with the Australian-built Camry’s performance – up 23 per cent to the end of September, and also remaining strong throughout October – and that current volumes were at a sustainable level “at the moment” for the Altona assembly plant in Victoria.

This is despite Toyota’s other locally manufactured car, the Aurion, experiencing a 14.1 per cent downturn so far this year.

“I’m quite happy with the way Camry is going and our locally made vehicles, and I think that’s a vote of confidence in Australian manufacturing that there’s that many people out there that are buying the vehicles.

“Moving forward, there’s no reason to see it drop off at this moment.”

As well as the redesigned RAV4, Mr Callachor said Toyota will early next year introduce important upgrades for HiLux and Prado, and also has a “flotilla” of special editions on the way and “a couple of other little things up our sleeve as well”.

Mr Callachor said the latter will not include the next-generation Kluger (now due in 2014) or a new sub-RAV crossover, which has been off the agenda “for quite some time for us, even though it (the segment) has had good increases”.

Instead, Toyota will focus on making RAV4’s entry-level pricing highly competitive to attract buyers, who Mr Callachor said will typically choose small SUVs over sub-compact versions if pricing was close enough.

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