Exclusive - Toyota's plans for India
Nithyanandh K, As a toddler, those wheeled machinery fascinated me even before I knew what they’re called as! So here I'm, petrolhead by birth, Mechanical engineer by qualification and automotive reporter by profession!
Discussing on Toyota's India's operation, Mr. Sandeep Singh, Deputy Managing Director (Marketing), TKM and Mr. Hiroshi Nakagawa, Managing Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) gave us an idea of the what the future has in store for Indians.
Toyota iQ -
I asked Mr.Nakagawa the prospect of the iQ. It is small, beautiful, fuel efficient and could be the apt city car. Yes, it may not satisfy all the requirement of an Indian small car, and with that in mind, I asked him if a watered down variant, without the airbags and gizmos could have a future in India. He replied it would not happen, and he did not have any plans for introducing the iQ in India. He praised the iQ for its innovation, but sadly it won't happen in India.
Toyota Hilux/ Commercial Vehicles -
When I launched this question, Mr.Nakagawa was quick to reply. As the Hilux pickup truck is based on the same platform as the Innova and the Fortuner, I asked if it would be manufactured in our country in the coming years. I also asked him if they would introduce other commercial vehicles. He said he had no intentions of seeing Toyota CVs in India including the Hilux. The focus of TKM was now only on the small car, which would their next big launch, apart from the Fortuner next month .
Lexus brand -
Mr.Nakagawa smiled. I even asked him why he did not launch the Land Cruiser 200 as a Lexus. It could have marked the entry of the luxury brand in India. He looked me in the eye and said he wanted to see the LC only as a Toyota and as of now, Lexus in India is not on his agenda. He said the feasibility study has to be completed, and what the customer wants has to be addressed fully since the competition is tough. Don't expect to see Lexus in India for two years.
Electric, Hydrogen, Fuel Cell vehicles -
The pace at which the EV industry is rolling, it would not be very long before we see these cars regularly on the road. I pitched this question to Mr.Nakagawa, and he said it was a very tough one. He was unable to foresee conditions 10 years from now. As of now, Toyota is not focusing on electric vehicles. Much of the effort is going the hybrid way.
Hybrid Vehicles, Toyota Prius in India -
Mr.Sandeep Singh said a hybrid car was not sell the same volume in rural and semi-urban areas as in the main cities. He was also confident that a large number of people will buy this car. The way he spoke, I felt Toyota would be the first manufacturer to take that big step and assemble or manufacture the car locally. Mr.Nakagawa expressed his desire to see a hybrid car driven by an Indian customer, and conveyed market study was being carried out on how to postion it.
Camry and low volumes -
Mr.Sandeep Singh was quick to comment. He said there was no kind of pressure from TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation) to sell 'x' number of Camrys in India. The Camry is the company's flagship car around the world. Hence it would not be appropriate to discount the price just to gain market share and stop the Superb, which has gone on a rampage. He said a customer who buys a Camry, invariable comes back to them after some time and buys another one.
When asked about local manufacturing, he said such decisions are not in the hands of TKM. It is TMC who decides on those matters.
Xylo and its impact on Innova -
Mr.Sandeep Singh praised the Xylo for expanding the MPV volume in India. However he said there was no fear in Toyota's mind. The Xylo is a car with all the features of the Innova, but priced lower. To kick off with, the sales would climb rapidly. But how long will it sustain, he asks. He has spoken to customers who own both the cars, and none of them compare them or use them for the same application. Let us wait and see, he added.
All important Toyota small car -
The Toyota bosses gave a little more information on the small car yesterday. It would be launched by the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011. The small car would not be very different in styling, it would have a similar aerodynamic styling of a modern small car and would be environment-friendly. Both hatchback and sedans will roll out on the same platform. Only petrol engines were planned and diesels were not on their minds right now. The small car is developed for Indian conditions and requirements. The company will not use the architecture of an existing model. However the car will be sold in countries other than India.
A special task force from TMC was sent to India back in 2007. They studied the number of dealers, their servicing capacity, the number of laborers etc and gave TKM the permission to start developing the small car.
Future launches -
There will not be many big launches in the country except for the Fortuner next month, for the next year or year and a half. There will be a few special editions of the existing cars that will follow, but that is about it.