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RAV4 fixing for first-spot fight

DIY: Toyota is making manual gearboxes available across the new RAV4 SUV range to make all variants more affordable for buyers.

Toyota banking on SUV leadership with its redesigned compact SUV pioneer

Toyota logo20 Feb 2013

UPDATED: 28/02/2013TOYOTA Australia has its sights set on an industry-record 1500 sales a month for the new-generation RAV4, once full supply from Japan comes on stream in the coming weeks.

That translates to 18,000 units a year, which would be a record for the compact SUV market and a return to the top of the podium for the RAV4 after slipping to third last year behind Nissan’s X-Trail – which cracked 16,000 sales in a first for the segment – and Mazda’s new CX-5.

With some RAV4 models costing between $500 and $1500 less than before (the entry level is now $28,490 plus on-roads costs), two petrol engine choices and a long-awaited diesel finally on offer, Toyota reckons the RAV4 will appeal to more Australian buyers than ever.

“I would say that well over 1400 units per month with full production is possible,” said Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing, Matthew Callachor. “We’ve also introduced the diesel because customers have asked us to do so.

“At this moment we expect demand to be at around 20 per cent, but I have to say early indications from our dealers put that higher – at about 25 or 30 per cent.”

On an annual basis, the RAV4 has featured among the top-three compact SUVs in Australia for more than a decade, although over that period it has only managed to lead the increasingly competitive segment three times – the last being in 2007.

X-Trail was last year’s trailblazer, racking up 16,066 new registrations for a long-awaited first segment win since 2003, while the acclaimed CX-5 was close behind on 15,861.

8 center imageLeft: Toyota Australia sales and marketing executive director Matthew Callachor.

The previous-model RAV4 was third on 14,651, while Subaru’s Forester, which has been a stellar sales performer and topped the charts five times over the past decade – more than any other model – was relegated to fourth on 11,533 sales in what was its lowest return in 10 years.

Just as the recently launched new-generation Forester is sure to turn things around for Subaru, Honda is hitting back hard with a new-generation CR-V and Mazda has upped the CX-5 ante with a new 2.5-litre engine option.

The Nissan sales and marketing machine is also working overtime to keep the ageing X-Trail top of mind for buyers, while Ford says it will hit the market blazing with the second-generation Kuga from April.

So Toyota Australia will have its work cut out to achieve the ambitious targets it has set for the new RAV4.

Mr Callachor believes there will be a ‘richer’ – that is, more top-end variant – mix of sales initially for the redesigned model, with the mid-range GXL expected to snare about 40 per cent of volume.

But as the new generation ages, it is the base GX that is expected to end up as the most popular version, accounting for 60 per cent of orders, while the GXL and Cruiser flagship should settle with about 35 and five per cent respectively.

Asked why Toyota is offering manual transmission across all model grades when most rivals like Honda and Mazda reserve it only for their entry models, Mr Callachor said he wants the RAV4 to be affordable to everybody at every level.

“Firstly it is for those people who actually prefer a manual driving experience, and secondly it is for costs reasons as well … in this category pricing is a big factor for those people. They weigh everything up.

“(But sales) will be very heavily skewed towards automatic, and I expect the auto to be the majority of sales.”

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