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Toyota gears up for Camry launch

Final countdown: The facelifted Camry launches in Australia in the second quarter and will be the final Australian-built Toyota model before manufacturing closes in 2017.

New vehicle market to maintain 2014 figures as Toyota prepares for new Camry, HiLux

Toyota logo27 Feb 2015

TOYOTA Australia is gearing up for two major new-vehicle launches this year, but the car-maker's local sales chief expects the overall market to maintain similar numbers to last year.

Speaking with GoAuto at the announcement of the Toyota 86 Pro-Am race series in Adelaide this week, Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the company's sales progress so far this year was being led by strong private-buyer numbers.

"We don't see any major change either way, I know it's down a little but it started strong for us and we're having a good February,” he said. “Private is strong for us at the moment – they are out in force and there are some good deals out there.”

Last year 1,113,224 new vehicles were sold in Australia, representing a 2.0 per cent dip over 2013's result. Toyota was the market leader for the 12th year running, with 203,501 sales in 2014.

Two critical models for the brand will hit showrooms during the course of 2015 – the major facelift of the final Australian-built Camry mid-sizer in the second quarter and a new version of the HiLux utility which will lob later in the year.

Mr Cramb highlighted the significance of the new HiLux to the car-maker's dealer network, while admitting that competition for the top-selling light-commercial ute had gotten tougher in recent years.

"HiLux is probably the most important vehicle in our line-up, it represents 25 per cent of sales for rural dealers and that's our heartland. It's a quarter of their sales and it's more than that of their profit.

"It's fair to say that customers have long-awaited a new one. The competition is very good at the moment, a couple of vehicles in particular, so we have a lot of work to do but it's still number one," Mr Cramb said.

Last year Ford's Australian-developed and designed Ranger started to creep up on HiLux, capturing 26,628 sales compared with the Toyota's haul of 38,126.

A strong sales performance from its top-selling Corolla is critical to the brand's market leadership, but Mr Cramb said the number-one status is not targeted by the brand for its small car.

"We don't really care, it's not something we worry about, truthfully we don't, and you smile at that but up until two years ago we never had a number-one selling car. It's never been something we aspire to, we want to provide a vehicle in every segment that meets the customers needs, the result will be people buying lots of them," he said.

Mr Cramb said the upcoming updates to the Camry were unaccompanied by any production line rate changes at its Altona plant in Victoria.

"It's still set up for 90,000, just under 30,000 for here and the rest for export. It's essentially a complete skin change, it's a totally different looking vehicle – we've never done a refresh like that in Australia and I'm struggling to think of one that we've done anywhere in such a short period of time, three years into a model life.”

While the long-term future of the Camry nameplate is assured, the source for it beyond the closure of local manufacturing in 2017 has not been decided and the future of the V6 Aurion is far from certain.

"Camry will definitely continue and then we'll see. We're facelifting Aurion at roughly the same time as Camry but we'll definitely continue with Camry nameplate," he said.

Mr Cramb said Toyota's long-term sales outlook as an importer was positive as it develops a program to change the Toyota customer experience.

"We're trying to improve the friction points between us and the customer, we're trying really hard to change some of those things, to create a new purchase experience.""We would expect our volume to increase, it's part of two strategies to change over the next three years," he said.

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