Toyota has returned to the booming small-car market.
The departure of the popular Tazz has long left the country’s best-selling vehicle brand without a contender in the small-car market, and this just as South African showrooms witnessed a serious shift in buying behaviour, with smaller cars gaining ground rapidly.
In fact, new car sales in the A-segment grew by 81% in 2010 compared with 2009, with the sub-B segment up 94% over the same period, this while the overall passenger car market grew by a ‘mere’ 30,6% in comparison. (The A- and sub-B segments refer to smaller, more affordable cars.)
Importers and other local manufacturers have been benefitting from Toyota’s absence in this market space, but the local arm of the Japanese brand has finally produced an answer to the growing popularity of cars such as the i10 and the Spark, with the launch of the Aygo.
Pricing for the five-door urban run-around starts at R109 900, which includes power steering, air-conditioning, ABS brakes, driver and passenger airbags, and an immobiliser and alarm. For R10 000 more, buyers get front electric windows, side airbags, a radio/CD player, remote central locking and alloy wheels.
A bottom-of-the-range, three-door Aygo, also to be imported from the same Czech plant, is to follow in the third quarter of the year.
Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) Aygo product planner Reché van Niekerk says accessories include a bluetooth kit, coloured centre cluster covers, an iPad integration kit, as well as front fog lamps, all aimed at accommodating the youth market, which is the Aygo's target market. (A secondary market is women looking for a zippy shop, drop and collect vehicle.)
The Aygo is priced lower than the Yaris Zen, but don’t expect the Zen to be around forever.
TSAM sales and marketing senior VP Calvyn Hamman says this lower-priced version of the Yaris was only an interim strategy until the launch of the new-look Yaris, as Toyota “had nothing in the smaller car market”.
TSAM now also plans to bring the larger-than-Yaris, but low-priced, made-in-India Toyota Etios to South Africa later this year as it works to strengthen its hand in the affordable car segment.
“We are doing everything to have the right line-up for the South African market,” says Hamman.
NEW, BUT FAMILIAR
Aygo – a play on the words ‘I go’ – may look familiar to some, as the Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 are all based on the same platform.
The Aygo has been around on the global markets for around five years-plus already. Why only bring it to South Africa now?
“When we considered launching it, it was hard. We had other priorities. We were focussed on keeping our local plant running,” explains Hamman.
TSAM produces the Corolla, Hilux and Fortuner models locally.
The profitability of small cars is also not nearly the same as those vehicles higher up the specification level, adds Hamman.
However, now that there has been a serious upswing in the market for small cars, Toyota has decided to bring the Aygo to South Africa, with the promise that the current model still has around three years life in it before it will be rejuvenated.
“People are also now more willing to sacrifice space for a lower price and better fuel economy, so we suddenly have volume potential in this [small car] market,” notes TSA marketing and planning VP Glenn Crompton.
He hopes to sell 300 Aygos a month.
If the petrol price continues to soar as it is currently doing, Crompton may just see this happen, as the 67 kg, one-litre VVT-i engine, which has clinched several engine of the year awards, sips only 4,6 l of petrol every 100 km, while offering a respectable 50 kW of power, and 93 Nm of torque at 3 600 rpm, powering a car which weighs in at a low 830 kg.
Top speed is 157 km/h, and reaching 100 km/h from a stationary position will take 14,2 seconds.
The Aygo’s turning circle is a tight 4,7 m.
The small car is exempt from carbon tax, as it comes in well below government’s tax limit, at 105 g/km carbon dioxide emissions.
The Aygo comes standard with a four-year, 60 000 km service plan.
Van Niekerk expects the A-segment, in which the Aygo competes, to make up 8% of the passenger car market in 2011.