Mumbai: The Indian arm of Japan’s largest car maker, Toyota Motor Corp., is considering the launch of another utility vehicle in India. Toyota already sells the Corolla Altis and Camry sedans, the Innova multi-utility and Land Cruiser Prado sports utility models in the country.
Toyota Kirloskar Motors Ltd “is studying the possibility of bringing another vehicle based on the IMV platform for India,” said a senior company executive, who did not wish to be named. IMV is short for innovative international multi-purpose vehicle, the platform or technology and manufacturing process behind the Innova and other Toyota pick-up trucks and minivans.
The new offering, which is smaller than the Innova, will be imported as a completely knocked down kit from Indonesia, where it is already selling the model, and assembled here. It would be positioned in the so-called B segment here, the executive added.
Toyota Kirloskar’s deputy managing director Sandeep Singh, however, said there were no plans for any vehicle introductions other than a small car targeted for roll-out in 2010. “Our hands are full with the small car project and we have no time—2010 is not far away—for anything else,” he said.
The B segment makes up about 54.4% of the passenger car market by vehicles sold in India and has several models from local units of Suzuki Motor Corp. of Japan and Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. One notch above the lowest priced cars such as the Maruti 800, B-segment cars include the Santro and WagonR and range up to premium models of the Swift, Getz and Fabia.
Toyota sells the Rush, Avanza, Innova and Previa models based on the IMV platform in Indonesia. Of these models, the Avanza, a five-door, mini multi-purpose vehicle with 1.3 and 1.5 litre engine options, could be a likely candidate for the Indian market. The Avanza, of shorter length, width and height than the Innova, also has a 1 litre engine variant sold as the Xenia by Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd, which is more than 51% owned by Toyota.
It’s not yet clear whether the new utility vehicle would be positioned in the entry level B or the premium so-called B plus segment that has cars ranging up to Rs7 lakh each. The Toyota Kirloskar executive said the decision had not been made and did not give a time frame for the launch of the utility vehicle.
One person closely associated with the project said Toyota Kirloskar may launch it before introducing its small car in India slated for a 2010 launch.
Toyota’s Indian unit has earlier talked about introducing a new model each year. Last week, the company introduced a variant of its Corolla model, the Corolla Altis. The Innova was launched in 2005 as a replacement for the Toyota Qualis, a multi-utility model that expanded the market for such vehicles. But that product is likely to face competition from Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd’s Ingenio, slated for a year-end roll-out.
One expert said the proposed utility vehicle and small car would help Toyota Kirsloskar build on its success with the Qualis and now Innova.
“Introduction of new models at regular intervals is one of the important strategies to survive in the Indian market and hence all the new launches would help Toyota strengthen its position here,” said Dheeraj Mathur, a partner and executive director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Toyota Kirloskar, which currently has a 2.5% share of the Indian passenger car market, has plans to build a small car from a new factory in Bidadi near Bangalore. The small car is seen as crucial for the company’s ambitions to be a volume player in India, dominated by small cars.
In a market increasingly seeing more product launches every passing month, the Toyota unit has had a thrifty approach to new model introductions.
Toyota Kirloskar envisages concluding the calendar year 2008 with sale of 63,000 vehicles against 53,000 last year.