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Naveen Soni, senior vice president, sales and service, Toyota Kirloskar.
Naveen Soni, senior vice president, sales and service, Toyota Kirloskar.

‘Festive season to drive demand recovery of PVs’

Indian customer’s views and behaviour towards online car purchase platform has evolved and will be further advanced in the coming days, says Naveen Soni, senior vice president, sales and service, Toyota Kirloskar

Passenger vehicle sales may improve during Navratri and Diwali, and bulk of the demand is expected to be generated from tier 1 and 2 cities, said Naveen Soni, senior vice-president, sales and service, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, in an interview. He added that Toyota will be able to expand its share in the domestic market with the launch of its first compact sports utility vehicle, Urban Cruiser . Edited excerpts:

Have you witnessed a sales recovery since the lockdown was lifted?

Since the lifting of the lockdown in May there has been a steady recovery in demand. June witnessed demand and sales due to several factors, including pending customer orders, as well as pent up demand due to the extended lockdown. Despite challenges, July witnessed improved sales in terms of wholesale when compared to June. However, due to the rapid increase in covid-19 cases, and consequent local lockdowns across India, including a sharp increase in cases in Bengaluru, we faced many challenges in sales, including a ramp down of production to a single shift. As a result, wholesales in August remained around the same level as in July, but we saw higher retails of approximately 25% in August over July.

Are you expecting sales to improve during the festivities?

Demand has been gradually increasing in the last few months. September has also been good in terms of enquiry and customer orders. In view of this, we expect there will be good demand during the festive season particularly from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. Keeping in mind the requirements of the consumer, we have also launched subscription and leased options to give greater flexibility to consumers in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Mumbai in the first phase.

Did sales improve during Onam and Ganesh Chaturthi in Kerala and Maharashtra, respectively?

There was significant improvement in sales in both Kerala and Maharashtra in August compared to July. Kerala and Maharashtra witnessed 40% and 6% sequential increase, respectively, despite the fact that Maharashtra continues to be one of the worst covid-affected states. The improvement in sales was primarily due to festive demand in the two states, and August witnessed highest monthly sales post-lockdown.

Will Toyota’s entry into the compact SUV segment help gain market share this year?

The sport utility vehicle segment is growing steadily over the last few years and this segment has contributed significantly to the overall growth of the industry. This year also the trend remains the same and there is a clear shift in demand towards compact SUVs primarily from the young millennial buyers. Given this fact, we are also launching the Urban Cruiser during this festive season which is intended to expand the customer base and appeal to the young and discerning customers to experience Toyota. Since the opening of bookings for Urban Cruiser in mid-August, we are truly touched by the overwhelming response from our consumers. Good number of bookings has been received even before the official launch of the vehicle.

Will digital platforms play a crucial role in connecting with customers during the festive season, since customers may be wary of visiting dealerships?

Digital platforms are playing a significant role in the new retail sales model, especially after the covid-19 crisis. The Indian customer’s views and behaviour towards online car purchase platform has evolved and it will be further advanced in the coming days. At Toyota, we have been constantly adapting to the changing market needs through our innovative services. To make the entire buying experience smooth, efficient and convenient, we have made provisions to digitize the sales process, wherein the customer can take a virtual tour of the vehicle, select financing options and even receive a quotation online. We have also made provisions for delivering the vehicle to the customer’s doorstep upon the completion of purchase.

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