Toyota bets big on Yaris

Toyota Kirloskar Motor, a joint venture between auto major Toyota and Kirloskar Group, has recently introduced its new entry-level, premium Sedan, Yaris, in the Indian market. Toyota Kirloskar Motor is betting big on its newly-launched sedan in order to bring sales back on track.

The company recently began deliveries of Yaris that has been priced between Rs 8.75 lakh and Rs 12.85 lakh for manual variant. For automatic, it’s priced between Rs 9.95 lakh and Rs 14.07 lakh. The car has only been launched in petrol variant and comes equipped with a CVT option right from the base variant.

Talking about why the company has not introduced a diesel variant of Yaris, N Raja, deputy managing director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor told Financial Chronicle, “We have been monitoring this segment for some time now. In the past three years, there has been a rise in customer sales of petrol variants. Traditionally, customers like a diesel engine on bigger vehicles like SUV, MPV as higher torque is required to enjoy and handle bigger cars,”

Looking at the recent trend regarding the increase in price for diesel and petrol, the price advantage in diesel has decreased to a great extent, bigger challenge for diesel cars is expected after April 2020 when Bharat Stage VI or BSVI emission norms kick in. Raja said that the price of diesel engines would see substantially bigger increase compared to petrol engines and the share of petrol engines is expected to rise further.

Talking about the new Yaris, He said, “We have a new product in the form of Yaris. It has been received with great interest. We are very confident that it will boost our volumes this fiscal. We hope to grow at 7-8 per cent in FY19 which is the industry growth projection.”

The Yaris is Toyota’s answer to strengthening its position. The model is especially important since Toyota’s entry family car duo — Etios and its Liva hatchback sibling — hardly set the sales charts on fire. The launch of the Yaris sedan comes at a crucial point for Toyota in India. In FY18, Toyota’s plans to grow at 7-8 per cent in 2018-19 after sales were down by almost 2 per cent.

The Innova Crysta and the Fortuner have kept the company in the race and improved its sales by a nominal 4 per cent year-on-year to 1,40,000 units in 2017. Toyota ranked a modest number 7 with a share of just 4 per cent in India’s light vehicle market last year.

However, this is nowhere near the position the Japanese automaker would want for itself after having been in the market since 1997.

The Toyota Yaris is a little late to the mid-size sedan market in the country. Thus, in a bid to give it an edge over its rivals, Toyota has given a special focus to safety and other features of the Yaris. In addition to ABS and EBD, Toyota has opted to equip the Yaris with seven airbags (driver, passenger, two on the side, two curtains and knee), as standard right from the base variant.

The Japanese carmaker observed that for most car buyers, safety was not a top priority, up until recently. However, this trend is now changing, especially (and surprisingly) in the rural areas. “People are valuing safety as a basic parameter, not on the basis of price and are willing to pay for it. For instance, in rural India, the first question we are asked by a potential car buyer is how many airbags the vehicle has.” Raja explained.

The Yaris comes with 1.5-litre petrol engine and in manual and automatic option. The car is primarily available in four variants - J, G, V, and VX, which are further segmented into eight iterations based on engine and transmission option. With its 1.5-litre petrol engine, it makes 108 bhp of peak power and 140 Nm of peak torque. The customer also gets the option of choosing a manual 6-speed gearbox or the Toyota Yaris automatic with a CVT option. The top of the line CVT also gets paddle shifters.

In terms of pricing, Toyota has priced the Yaris slightly above its main rival - Honda City (Rs 8.71- Rs 13.70 lakh) with the base trim commanding a Rs 4,000 premium and the top-spec automatic commanding a Rs 37,000 premium. The other rivals in the mid-size segment undercut the Toyota by a wide margin are Ciaz, is the most affordable of the lot, while the Verna starts high at Rs Rs 9.8 lakh for the base 1.6-litre version (it is also available with a cheaper 1.4-litre motor priced at Rs 7.8-9.1 lakh) but ends at a respectable Rs 12.6 lakh for the top-spec automatic (all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi).

Toyota is offering a segment-best 7 airbags as standard across the Yaris range. Hill-start assist, vehicle stability control and rear disc brakes are part of the safety kit on the top-spec Yaris VX. The City, Verna and Ciaz get dual airbags as standard while range-topping versions of the Honda and Hyundai see the airbag count rise to 6.

Talking of the range-topping versions of these cars, there are features you’d find on all such as touchscreen infotainment systems, rear air-con vents (the Yaris’ are uniquely mounted on the roof), and leather upholstery. The Yaris does go one up on the others with a few class-first features such as a tyre pressure monitoring system, front parking sensors, powered driver’s seat adjust, gesture control for the infotainment system. The City and Verna are the only ones to get a sunroof. Notably, LED headlights are only offered on the City while front seat ventilation is a feature exclusive to the Verna.

Toyota Yaris has been priced competitively and has already garnered over 60,000 inquiries and close to 5000 bookings. Even with just petrol variant, Toyota is aiming for a double-digit segment share in 15000 units a month mid-size sedan market and it will be eyeing for the top three or four sellers in the segment.

Neeraj Jha