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Daihatsu could do the trick for Toyota in India

Our Mumbai Bureau | Updated on March 12, 2018

After the Etios and Liva, the brand could revive the small car plan for India

After the Etios and Liva, the brand could revive the small car plan for India

Nearly a decade ago, there were reports of a team from Toyota’s subsidiary, Daihatsu, visiting India to get a feel of the small car market. It seemed the best strategy for the world’s leading automaker which, at that time, was better known in the subcontinent as the maker of the Qualis utility vehicle.

Nobody really knows what Daihatsu eventually reported back to headquarters in Japan. Perhaps it was purely an exploratory exercise. Either ways, Toyota decided to pursue its own small car project for India which culminated in the Etios sedan and its hatchback sibling, Liva, hitting the roads in 2010.

There was tremendous anticipation in the market because these were products designed exclusively for India by a top automobile brand. By then, it already had a winner in the Innova MPV which had replaced the Qualis.

The initial market response to the Etios was promising but it was clear that customers wanted something more from Toyota and these cars did not quite fit the bill, a fact borne out by the sales numbers which followed.

Recent reports in the international media now suggest that Daihatsu could be roped in to help its parent revive the small car plan for India. The two are already part of a mini-car plan in Indonesia and it only seems logical to extend this partnership in a cost-competitive market like India. While there is no official confirmation yet from Toyota, it is clearly the best bet going forward.

Market focus

At present, the company’s leadership team at its Karnataka facility is focusing on the back-end to ensure that plant processes are at top levels of efficiency. Likewise, a lot of focus is being paid to better sales and service at the front-end while paying a more careful ear to what the market wants.

The goal is to ensure optimal customer satisfaction by the end of the day which will also do its bit in improving the perception of the Etios. Even if this is happening, it is not as if sales of the car are going to leapfrog in a hurry especially when market leader, Maruti-Suzuki has been stepping up the gas lately with offerings like the Celerio and the new Alto with an AMT (automated manual transmission) option.

Likewise, Hyundai has also got customers queuing up for its Grand i10, Elite i20 and Xcent compact sedan. Like Toyota, Honda may not have hit paydirt with its Brio hatchback but has reasons to be pleased with market response to its Amaze, new City and Mobilio multipurpose vehicle.

For the moment, there may not be a pressing need for Toyota to get all worked up about India. Car sales fell in 2013-14 and are not likely to revive in a hurry this fiscal either. However, things could change during the reminder of this decade with an aggressive Government keen on getting the economy back on track. This is when customers will start queuing up in dealerships all over again and Toyota may not be inclined to miss out on this momentum. Getting Daihatsu on board would be a pragmatic move and possibly help achieve what the Etios could not. Will Toyota go ahead and bite the bullet? This is the million dollar question.

Published on November 20, 2014

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