TOYOTA’s Australian sales kept the car-maker as the most popular for the 20th consecutive year in 2022 – and a total of 26 years at the top – despite a tough 12 months confounded by weak supply clashing with strong demand.
Delivery delay pain will continue, at least for the first six months of 2023, Toyota Motor Company Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations Sean Hanley told GoAuto.
“I’m more optimistic about the second half of this year in terms of supply and I am confident that we will deliver well over 200,000 vehicles (in 2023),” he said.
Toyota’s volume in 2022 was 231,050 units.
Mr Hanley said internal market research has shown that the cost of living and rising interest rates have started to bite into customer enquiries.
“We’ve been watching that (customer enquiries) come off for the past three or four months,” he said.
“We would probably now say that vehicle inquiry level is now at pre-COVID levels. That means we are coming off an incredible high through COVID and that now enquiry rates are coming back to normal.
“That’s not a bad thing. For us it means demand is still there and we maintain an incredibly healthy order bank going into 2023 which will hold us in good stead through the year.
“But we equally know that we’ve got to manage customer expectations and communicate diligently.”
Keeping the customer satisfied led to Toyota refitting its former Camry production facility in Melbourne’s Altona to become a pre-delivery centre, although Mr Hanley emphasised that this is not designed to reduce new-vehicle delivery times.
“In terms of customer deliveries, it’s actually not about that,” he said.
“It’s about improving the quality of the pre-delivery process. Because cars are getting more complex, and as we move into this electrified, electric hybrid, connected, particularly connected area, the requirement for pre-delivery is becoming more technically advanced.
“So a state-of-the-art facility to move with the technology advancements and to get a consistent quality of free delivery to our customers was actually our number one goal.
“Now, as a byproduct, we can find other efficiencies, and cost savings. And that holds us all in good stead going forward to be the most competitive that we can be in the market.”
Mr Hanley said Toyota sold 72,850 hybrids in 2022, representing 31.5 per cent of its total sales. The RAV4 was Australia’s best-selling hybrid with 26,547 sales, representing 76.2 per cent of the model’s sales.
Toyota said that as a separate franchise, Toyota hybrids would rank sixth by sales in the Australian market.
Its 2022 hybrid record also lifts all-time electrified Toyota sales to 315,087 vehicles – a total the car-maker calculates has reduced tailpipe emissions by the same amount as about 95,000 battery-electric vehicles.
This is an interesting comparison as Toyota prepares to introduce its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV) – the bZ4X – onto the Australian market in the second half of this year.
“Hybrid models will represent a big part of our sales in 2023,” said Mr Hanley.
“We’ve never been opposed to BEVs. We believe BEVs will play an important role in getting to a carbon neutral position. But BEVs won’t be the only source.
“Australia is a very diverse market. People in Australia use their vehicles for many different purposes so the vehicle they choose has to be fit for purpose.
“BEVs will suit some people but some people might tow a caravan or be involved in remote off-road driving, so it’s not going to suit them.
“So you’ve got to have solutions. That could be hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or in the future, it could very well be hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles.”
It could become as popular in the future as some current models are now. In 2022, Toyota’s Corolla hatch and sedan recorded 10 consecutive years as Australia’s best-selling passenger car with 25,284 units sold.
The RAV4 is the top-selling SUV (34,845 sales) and the LandCruiser Prado has record sales for the second year in a row posting 21,102 deliveries in the year.
Despite production hiccups and long delivery times – up to 24 months for some specific models such as a top-end RAV4 Hybrid – Toyota is readying more models.
“We have announced the HiLux GR Sport variant which we think will give the HiLux an incredible boost,” said Mr Hanley.