The world’s largest carmaker has been around in India for over a decade but it is only now that it has woken up to the potential of the market. After unveiling the concept of the smallest car in its stable that will be exclusively built in India, vice-chairman of the board of Toyota, Kazuo Okamoto, spoke to Sumant Banerji about his plans with the Etios. Excerpts:
The global recession of 2008-09 has impacted everybody in the automobile industry and Toyota logging its first loss in a quarter in 60 years was not spared either. How do you hope to achieve a turnaround and what role does Etios play in it?
The Etios will be a major factor in our revival, some of it is already underway. The recession impacted everybody and being the largest in the business we were bound to be hit. There is, however, no need to revisit our core strategy or philosophy of providing the best quality products keeping in mind what the customers want. Now we also want to make our vehicles more affordable.
Toyota is known for its quality but off late there have been numerous instances of recalls some of them embarrassing but all costing the company in the process. What’s wrong?
Quality is the most important thing for us and these cases may have had a little impact on our image as a producer of cars of high quality. We have since then revisited our production with more stress on efficiency than volumes. However, the overall sense of reliability and trust that consumers the world over have in our brand remains largely the same.
How important is the Indian market to Toyota? How does Etios fit in?
India is one of the markets of prime importance to us and Etios is a massive product for us globally. For now the car will be only manufactured here and we will use India as an export hub for this car. It is only in India where we could have made a smaller car than what we already have in the world and still make it more affordable. Our aim is to achieve 10 per cent marketshare in India by 2015 and Etios hatch and sedan will be the primary drivers of our volumes.
Post Etios, do we see more cars being manufactured exclusively out of India? Is there any big learning from the manufacturing of this car that you would use in other cars as well?
For now we are very focussed on Etios and its sedan variant itself and do not have any plans of another small car just yet. Our basic premise with the Etios was to provide Toyota technology at a more affordable price so one of the big things we tried and achieved was to bring down the number of components use in the car. This not only made the car lighter and hence more fuel efficient and also led to a reduction in cost. This can be used in our other cars like Corolla and Camry as well.