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Toyota’s tag team on top in SUV market

Dominant: Toyota's Kluger and its stablemate, Prado, lead the way in the mdeium SUV market.

Kluger, Prado give Ford Territory a tough time in the medium SUV market

General News logo19 May 2009

WITH the benefit of hindsight, the Ford Territory’s time at the top of the heap in the medium SUV sector was just a blip on Toyota’s time line.

Using the might-is-right method, Toyota released a second model into the sector – the Kluger – only a few months before Ford unveiled the Territory in May 2004.

It was a pre-emptive strike that did not work well at first, at least in terms of suppressing the ‘Terry’.

The Ford went to number one, but subsequently was brought back to the pack by the combined might of the Kluger and the Prado.

Toyota has almost all aspects covered with those two – the Kluger covering the softroader market, with the Prado appealing to 4WD buyers who want to go rock-climbing.

The Toyota range lacks only a high-performance version to counter the highly successful, but necessarily smaller volume, Ghia Turbo Territory.

It might have taken two of them to catch the Territory, but the constant model cycles that can be maintained with an international market and volumes to match have accelerated Toyota’s advantage. The Prado was given a better turbo-diesel engine in 2006 – something the Territory still cannot offer – while the Kluger was renewed in 2007.

The Territory had to wait until last month for a minor facelift and upgrade.

As might be expected, sales of medium SUVs declined during the period of high fuel prices and the global financial crisis.

80 center imageLeft: Toyota Prado. Below: Ford Territory.

Sales fell off a small cliff in June last year – down from 7.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent of the overall market – and continued to ease for the next five months.

Then, as the pain of fuel prices subsided towards the end of last year and manufacturers stimulated the market to reduce inventories, sales jumped back in December, from 6.7 per cent to 7.6 per cent. This was just above the 12-month average of 7.5 per cent.

Every model on the graph rose in December except the Pathfinder, with sales of the Territory, Captiva and Pajero all jumping more than 35 per cent in a month. The Kluger was up 29 per cent and the Prado “only” 15 per cent.

This year, Prado and Kluger have exchanged number-one honours in the segment, ahead of Territory.

While the big three slug it out at the top, Holden’s Captiva has been making steady progress in its bid to close the gap. It’s still fourth in the rankings, but was a much closer fourth in April.

GM marketing chief John Elsworth said the Captiva had been a particular focus for Holden since December, especially with extra value deals and driveaway prices.

“It combines sporty good looks, fuel efficiency and a featured-packed, flexible package,” Mr Elsworth said. He said private buyers were attracted to the availability of seven seats across the range. The availability of a turbo-diesel variant also gave it the edge over some of its rivals.

The minor placings on the graph are being squabbled over by Pajero, Pathfinder and the CX-9, with the Pajero appearing to have lost some of its advantage in the last 12 months.

However, release of the upgraded NT model in February looks to have already started to improve the car’s fortunes, with a notable kick up in sales in April.

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