Toyota Motor Corporation is one of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers. The company was founded in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries. The first passenger car, the Toyota AA, was launched in 1936. Ever since, Toyota has only gone from strength to strength in every car segment. Its long list of successful vehicles include pickup trucks like the Tundra DoubleCab, compact SUV’s like the Matrix, mid-sized cars like the Camry and full-sized ones such as the Avalon.
Toyota’s Indian subsidiary is known as Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd. The Kirloskar Group is a minority owner in this company. Overall, it is the 4th largest carmaker in India after Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Mahindra. Toyota began its foray in India in 1997 with a joint venture with the Kirloskar Group. It has manufacturing facilities at Bidadi and Bangalore, both in Karnataka.
Toyota’s Indian venture has been through lots of ups and downs and in 2014, the company suffered a loss of 180 crore rupees, the first in its history. Much of the blame was put down to a shift in focus from utility vehicles like the successful Qualis and up-market sedans like the Corolla to small cars like the Liva and sedans like the Etios. A lack of consumer interest saw Toyota losing out to its rivals. According to Managing Director of Toyota Kirloskar, Naomi Ishii, a lack of new models compared to Hyundai and Honda may have also hurt its prospects. And while 2015-16 will not see too many new models, the company has driven up production capacities in its various facilities with the hope of bringing out new models.
In particular, Toyota hopes to make it big when it comes to low-priced Multi-Purpose Vehicles, which would contend with the Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster and Honda Mobilio. These models could be placed in the 10-lakh plus range. The new models, according to Ishii, would meet Toyota’s international standards, reputed to be among some of the best in the world. A lot of stress will be laid on safety and even the most low-end of models will be equipped with dual airbags. Toyota is also intending to change its long-term strategy, with a greater focus and after-sales care to build up a solid base in the Indian market. This would help avoid it getting sucked into the numbers game, and would give it solid returns while focusing on its strengths, according to Mr.Ishii.
Ishii also spoke at length on the implications of the latest Union Budget on Toyota Kirloskar in particular and the automobile industry in general. He said that carmakers in India feel discouraged at the very high rates of tax which Indian vehicles are subjected to-which is in excess of 50-60 percent. This is not the case in Japan, and such high tax rates are greatly hinder bulk manufacturing. He did, however, speak positively of the “Make in India” policy, as the local sourcing of products of parts would greatly lessen the needs for imports.
Toyota, inspite of market vagaries, continues to remain an automobile giant, and Indian customers will be greatly heartened to know of the steps which it has taken to boost its presence here.