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Aurion hit for six

The other six: Sales of Toyota's six-cylinder Aurion are down 29.3 per cent this year, but the company says it is running to expectation.

Toyota’s ‘big six’ Aurion drags its heels, despite recent makeover

Toyota logo8 Dec 2009

By JAMES STANFORD

IT IS no secret that the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are suffering in the marketplace, but another big Aussie six has been hit harder this year.

Sales of the Toyota Aurion are down 29.3 per cent year-to-date, according to VFACTS figures collated at the end of November. By comparison, the Commodore is down 12.3 per cent and the Falcon is down just 3.7 per cent.

A mild update in September that brought minor styling changes and a five-star crash-test rating – accompanied by a fresh marketing push – gave the Aurion a sales boost in October, but the Altona-made sedan is still struggling.

At the end of November, Toyota had sold 12,604 Aurions for a monthly average of 1146. If November and December run at the same rate, the final Aurion tally will come in at around 13,750, fewer than the number of Camry V6s Toyota shifted in 2004.

The Camry V6 result was achieved despite competition from the V6 Avalon, of which Toyota sold 5584 in the same year.

The 2009 number will also be, by a long way, the worst 12-month result in the Aurion’s short life.

8 center imageLeft: Toyota Aurion Sportivo. Below: Toyota Avalon.

Launched in October 2006, the Aurion managed a healthy 22,036 in 2007 and 19,562 last year, when the economic crisis started to hurt the big sedan.

The Aurion is Toyota’s second attempt at the six-cylinder sedan market in Australia after the failed Avalon, sold here from 2000 to the end of 2005.

The Avalon’s best year was 2001, when it sold 11,760, but not even Toyota’s big-spending marketing department could save the outdated car and it died a slow death.

Back then, the Avalon had to compete with the Camry V6, a model that appealed to much the same buyer. Toyota Australia came to the conclusion that no V6 large car would be able to succeed selling against the Camry V6.

The answer was to kill off the Avalon and the V6 Camry and replace them with a reskinned version of the V6 Camry called the Aurion.

So, how does the Aurion compare to the combined sales of the Avalon and Camry V6? Combined V6 Camry and Avalon sales stood at 20,989 in 2001, 20,197 in 2002, 19,004 in 2003 and 19,654 in 2004 before sales dipped in 2005 with 14,995 as the Avalon rolled slowly towards the chopping block.

The Aurion bettered both cars in its first year, did a similar number in its second and has now dropped well behind in 2009.

Some of the factors that are hurting the Falcon and Commodore, including fleets opting for four-cylinder engines and private buyers changing their preferences, are affecting the Aurion.

Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen says the Aurion is doing as well as the company expected.

“We are on track to meet our 2009 sales plan for Aurion,” he said.

Mr Breen added that Toyota was not prepared to discount to maintain Aurion sales.

"The facelift vehicle, launched in September, has improved specification levels on what is already a quality value for money package,” he said.

“We will continue to offer the best value packages possible across our Aurion range without distressing the vehicles price or devaluing the Aurion brand.” The Aurion has every chance to bounce back as the economy strengthens, but the recovery could be made more difficult by another rival in its own camp, the Camry Hybrid, which will go on sale in February, presumably backed by a large marketing campaign.

Toyota has already issued a press release promoting the savings customers will enjoy by purchasing the Camry Hybrid instead of a ‘big Aussie six,’ a designation that includes the Aurion.

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