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TRD Aurion to leave tribal leaders alone
Toyota Aurion TRD to avoid fight with local muscle cars
21 Aug 2007
TOYOTA concedes the TRD Aurion, launched today with a starting price of $56,990, won’t convert what it calls “true-blue tribalists” from Ford and Holden, brands which it says have attracted just 20 per cent of the “performance-enhanced” vehicle market in the past decade – despite doubling of the segment from about 11,000 vehicle sales in 1997.
“We weren't looking to build a muscle car,” said Toyota Australia's senior executive director sales and marketing, David Buttner. “The tribalists will not contemplate another brand as they aspire to own the latest version of the car their fathers drove.
“TRD models are for people who appreciate fine performance and nuance. “They make a statement without being overt and they deliver owner and driver satisfaction without stress.”
The company that hasn’t offered anything resembling a sports car in its range since the MR2 and Celica coupes quietly disappeared two years ago is coy about sales forecasts, and admits the TRD Aurion is designed more to inject equity, loyalty and passion into the Toyota brand than to attract outright sales.
“The TRD brand is going to be worth far more than the immediate sales it generates. The TRD brand will enhance the Toyota brand by adding more style, performance, excitement and the ability to turn heads,” said Mr Buttner.
“As well as bringing new customers on board, TRD will be the pinnacle brand that will attract younger buyers to Toyota and engender greater brand loyalty,” he said.
Toyota says most buyers will be poached from imported European and Japanese cars in the $50,000-$60,000 region, which the TRD sedan is claimed to match for refinement, response and performance.
But it maintains the hottest Aurion also represents an alternative to $60,000-plus Australian-made V8 muscle cars from HSV and FPV which, unlike TRD and Toyota, are not wholly-owned subsidiaries of Holden and Ford. Interestingly, the TRD Aurion is assembled under contract by Prodrive, which also owns 51 per cent of FPV.
“TRD Aurion matches the size of the locally produced sports sedans that are priced above it, and it exceeds the performance of its imported rivals,” said Mr Buttner.
Toyota won't divulge sales forecasts for the TRD Aurion, the development costs for which are believed to be around $5 million (including the TRD brand launch itself), but executives have targeted the Mazda6 MPS and Liberty GT, which but attract around 70-90 sales per month, as the hot Aurion's most direct rival.
“Market research has demonstrated the potential of the TRD brand with its awareness in the target market already matching that of Subaru's STi and Mercedes-Benz's AMG.
“The great performance of our TRD rally team, with Simon Evans winning the drivers' championship last year and combining with Neal Bates to win the manufacturers' cup, has contributed measurably to TRD brand awareness in Australia.
“The high recognition of the TRD brand - even before the first TRD product was launched in Australia - demonstrates the importance of having a strong motorsport heritage, which Toyota has built up over the past 50 years.”
Toyota celebrated exactly 50 years in motorsport during the Hobart launch of the TRD Aurion, dating back to August 21, 1957, when Kunio Kaminomura and Koujiro Konda took part in the Mobilgas Round Australia Trial in a 48hp Toyopet Crown – the first first international motor racing entry by any Japanese car.
Mr Buttner said the target market was primarily men aged 35 to 50 who love sport and cars. Its says TRD Aurion's sub-$57,000 starting price was designed to attract “user-choosers” looking for a car under the luxury-car tax threshold.
According to Toyota, TRD customers will be more passionate about their vehicles than the average motorist, they are likely to be younger, better educated and wealthier. More than 60 per cent are expected to have a bachelor degree or higher, and they are likely to be high-income earners with an average yearly income of $105,000. The average age of people likely to buy the TRD Aurion is 37 – almost a decade younger than the avreage Toyota customer.
As Toyota has said from the outset, all of its top-selling imported passenger cars are candidates to eventually join an expanded TRD model range, with a supercharged 4.0-litre V6 HiLux 4WD dual-cab ute (as previewed at the Melbourne motor show alongside the Aurion Sports Concept, which debuted at Sydney last October) set down for a late 2007 launch as the second TRD model.
Toyota this week confirmed a feasibility study is underway for a third model, likely to be either a Corolla V6 or a 1.8-litre Yaris. An all-wheel drive TRD Aurion may also eventuate.
“As we invest in and develop TRD, there is no limitation to the donor vehicles available for our expansion,” said Mr Buttner.
Toyota has appointed 26 specialist TRD dealers within established Toyota dealerships, mainly in metropolitan areas. A further 15 will be added, mostly in regional areas, later this year when the TRD HiLux is released.
Toyota says it expects TRD to make a profit, but not necessarily in the short-term.
Watch this space from Thursday, for more details and GoAuto's first drive of the TRD Aurion.
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