Interview: Jon Williams

Time 11:13 pm, January 3, 2012

f62dcf4c-6cd8-4856-a4e1-f98d5dc739ffMANAGING director of Toyota GB has high praise for his network of hard-working dealers… and says the new Yaris is a crucial car.

How is Toyota coping with supply problems?

It’s been and gone. We’ve had an amazing recovery. We’ve been at full capacity for Europe since June with every plant at 100 per cent, and we have recently published a press release which shows that Toyota Motor Corporation is at equivalent levels pre-earthquake and looking to catch-back 350,000 units in the balance of our financial year. We’re in a good poisiton.

How important is the Yaris being a European car and built in Europe?

Very – it’s a small car built in France, which gives a real opportunity because we have cost competitiveness in local manufacturing, and we have that flexibility in that we work off late ordering. Having a plant in Europe also means we have a short supply chain from the north of France – in fact it’s little different from working in the UK – and it means we can be very customer orientated and we can give customers what they want, when they want it, and at the price they want it. We will also be building the Yaris hybrid there meaning we produce two hybrids locally and this is very much in the vein of the Toyota model.

So, Yaris is an important car for your network?

The Yaris a hugely important car for the UK as it is our best-selling model, and in terms of the number of vehicles still on the road since 1999, there’s around 300,000. For our dealers, this is an important car.

8b62d2b6-c341-498e-9e4b-51b5bad84461How units of the Yaris do you expect to sell?

In a full year – with the hybrid – we aim to sell in the high 20,000s. I think that is a good expectation figure given where the marketplace is – don’t forget, in the past, we would see around 34,000 Yaris units a year.

With new entries into the b-segment market, our expectations are not back to 30,000+ units, but with the hybrid at 20 per cent mix, I think a figure of the high 20,000s is a very achievable.

You say the new Yaris has ‘grown up’ but you’re also targeting younger buyers. Do the two contradict each other?

When we launched Yaris in ’99, it was our only small car. Now we have Aygo, iQ, Yaris, Verso-S, and Urban Crusier – that’s five small cars. What we mean by it’s grown up is that it really becomes a full b-segment car. When the Yaris started off, it was somewhere between a- and b-segment, and even the last generation Yaris could have been accused of being a+ or b- in terms of sizing. Younger buyers want to buy full b-segment cars.

336ea240-778f-402d-8070-54b526178451With greater sector designation for models, this is good new for your dealers?

Our dealer network can now sell a full line-up of small cars, and this is really important in terms of where the market is going. It also fits very strongly with Toyota’s heritage – in Japan, Toyota has a history of producing many small cars for buyers.

With your rivals opting for eco-petrols, why has the Yaris got a diesel engine?

It’s about offering our customers what they want. For a small proportion of our customers, they require a diesel for long motorway journeys and that is what we offer. We don’t expect it to take a huge mix – the 1.33-litre version will be the biggest seller – but we see there will be a big opportunity for the Yaris hybrid.

How’s your dealer network at the moment?

They’ve had a tough year this year as 2011 will be the lowest retail market in 20 years. My constant advice to them is to work hard because if you work hard and you are disciplined, you can still perform – and I see that from our network. At the half way point of this year it is profitable, on average it is behind where we were last year – that was 1.79 per cent return on sales – and I think we will struggle to meet that, but the conditions are different. We are seeing good signs from our network – as mentioned it’s profitable and we have done a large amount of hard work in improving customer retention and service, and in used cars. Our network is fighting hard and I am proud of them.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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