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Toyota manufacturing exit confuses customers

Confusion: Toyota Australia says many people think the company will stop selling cars altogether, rather than just ceasing locall production.

Toyota battles misconceptions it will stop selling cars in Australia altogether

19 Feb 2014

TOYOTA has vowed to fight public confusion about its future in Australia following its February 10 announcement that it would stop manufacturing cars here from 2017.

Initial feedback from customers and dealers suggests that many Australians believe Toyota will abandon the market altogether when its Victorian plant in Altona plant ceases to make the Camry and Aurion.

This is contrary to Toyota Australia’s intention to become a full-line importer of vehicles, as its aim to build on its current market dominance with the continuation of all model lines including future Camry and Aurion iterations.

One cited reason for customer confusion is understood to be the fact that a large proportion of the car buying public has been unaware Toyota builds cars in Australia in any form.

But while the company said it needed to set the record straight, it has no plans to echo the strategy used by Holden – which will also close its factory doors here by 2017 – entailing a widespread advertising blitz. Instead, it will make more intimate contact through its dealer network.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the 11th-generation Corolla sedan in Launceston this week, Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb said that the confusion had caught the company by surprise.

“The one thing that we haven’t been able to understand is the customer reaction they think the Toyota brand is leaving Australia – and not just the manufacturing, but all of Toyota,” Mr Cramb revealed.

“And I think Holden must have had the same problem and that’s why they did their ads.

“But that’s probably for us the biggest single issue, that we have to communicate with the customers. You don’t have to worry about your parts after 2017, you’ll be able to get a Camry after 2017, you’ll be able to continue your relationship with your local dealer after 2017, because our business goes on.

“Some people have misinterpreted that a ‘Toyota exit’ means that Toyota is leaving the country in total, which is not the case.

“I think it’s because people don’t understand that we manufacture here in the first place. When we do surveys only 20 per cent of people know that we manufacture in Australia to start with despite all the publicity that’s been going on for the last 12 months.

“So when the headline reads ‘Toyota Leaves Australia’ they interpret that as Toyota that they know – which is maybe their HiLux or LandCruiser or whatever – they will not be able to get anymore. They don’t understand that it’s just Camry and Aurion.

“We have to deal with that misconception in the Toyota way, where we communicate one-by-one with customers through the dealers, and also we get the message out (via the media) that Toyota is not going anywhere, and that it is just the manufacturing component (that’s leaving Australia) and it is not going anywhere until 2017 either.” Mr Cramb said that Toyota would definitely not follow Holden’s example with some sort of national advertising blitz.

Mindful of the devastating direct and indirect effects of Toyota’s manufacturing withdrawal in this country, the company is electing instead for a more intimate and personalised approach to communicating its plans.

“We’re obviously thinking about it,” he said. “Our marketing people are considering what is the best way to communicate that message without it being… well, let’s just say we want to do it the Toyota way.

“Our prime focus is the people that are directly and indirectly impacted for the time being. We’ve got to make sure that every person that is impacted – we can help them through this transition.

“It is a devastating blow for people who have never worked anywhere else. We have people who have worked at Toyota for 40 years, people who have never done another job, and people who have never been to a job interview. We have to help them with that sort of skill.

“Our primary job is to help people transition over the next two to three years.

“The second part is, once we get to (beyond 2017) how do we build a business that gets us through to the next 50 years after? And what will be our contribution to the community in Australia to replace manufacturing? “They are our two main focuses.”

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