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Toyota stands by new Corolla’s higher entry point
No plans for entry Ascent model return as Corolla bottom line heads north: Toyota
10 Aug 2018
By TERRY MARTIN
TOYOTA Australia is standing firm on its decision not to include a circa-$20,000 entry-level variant of its 12th-generation Corolla hatchback.
The previous Corolla line-up kicked off with an Ascent model priced from $20,190 plus on-road costs, but the market-leading Japanese brand has this week opened the books for the fully redesigned version with a more highly specified Ascent Sport, which is described as a ‘Level 2’ car and starts $2580 further upstream at $22,870.
Adding the dealer and statutory charges and automatic transmission, the latter attracting a take-up rate of 95.2 per cent on the previous model, takes the dollar figure for getting the most affordable version of Corolla on the road to around $27,000.
This is up from $22,990 for the previous Ascent auto and, in essence, sees the more highly specified new model’s transaction price rise at the entry level by more than $4000.
Asked whether Toyota would reintroduce the Ascent grade if Corolla’s sales continued to fall, and if it was in danger of losing its status as the nation’s most popular passenger car, Toyota Australia vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley told GoAuto: “We really haven’t considered that.
“I’ll tell you why: because we’re seeing a movement to these Level 2-plus cars in the segment. We are watching it very carefully, and we think that our Corolla is affordable, it’s positioned correctly, and we think that it will sit nicely with the requirements of that market segment,” he said.
“So we’re not contemplating any extension of models. We certainly have no plans, as we launch this car, in that direction.
“The thought that we would have a Level 1, or sub-Level 1, is not a thought for Toyota. It’s just not a plan that we’ve contemplated. We’re going into the marketplace confident.
“We understand that this car sets a new benchmark of safety and technology, styling, drive performance, and we believe that our loyal Corolla customers will see that value instantly, and it will appeal.
“And we believe that those who may not have considered Corolla or Toyota in the past, will see that car and it will be a very attractive proposition for them.”
Mr Hanley said Toyota’s internal research showed there was still significant opportunity for high sales volume in the sub-$40,000 small-car class, despite the fact that the segment is in decline.
While Corolla sales have been falling on an annual basis since 2014, and are down a further 4.1 per cent this year, the long-running nameplate remains the dominant force in the class, holding an 18.9 per cent share ahead of the Mazda3 (16.9%) and Hyundai i30 (14.9%).
Notably, Hyundai was forced to lower the entry level to its new-generation i30 to $19,990 (plus on-roads) in December last year via a ‘Go’ variant in a bid to arrest a serious sales decline after pushing upmarket at launch with the redesigned series seven months earlier.
“We recognise very much the opportunity still for volume in that segment,” Mr Hanley said.
“When we had a look at the line-up of the previous-model Corolla, we realised there was a distinct shift up to that Level 2-plus market. So when we positioned new-generation Corolla, we positioned what would have been a Level 1 to Level 2.
“And because of the significant amount of safety specification technology in that car, it didn’t make a lot of sense to spread it over four models. We’re confident that the market will definitely recognise the safety features in this car, and the value in this car. So we’re confident with the positioning.”
The safety features fitted standard across the new Corolla range include active cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning (including steering assist), automatic high beam, a speed-limit recognition system – a first for Toyota in Australia – and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
Toyota is aiming to attract more private buyers with this new generation – a younger demographic in particular – but Mr Hanley said Toyota was not walking away from fleet sales.
“No, not at all,” he said. “In fact, I can tell you, from our pre-orders already, we have strong interest in rental as well.
“Clearly the market is moving up to a Level 2-plus car, and we think that the new-generation Corolla sits sweetly in that broad market.”
He also said Toyota Australia had no plans to introduce a special driveaway pricing deal as part of the new Corolla’s launch.
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