The world's largest car maker Toyota on Wednesday launched its much-anticipated entry-level sedan Etios in India with a claim that the car "epitomises quality", at a time when it has recalled about 10 million vehicles globally.
The company, which is present in India through a joint venture with the Kirloskar Group, has priced the car very competitively at Rs 4.96 lakh-Rs 6.86 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). It has been pitched against other entry-level sedans such as Maruti DZiRE, Mahindra Logan and Fiat Linea.
"This is my first visit to India in the last four years. This historically marks a new chapter for Toyota in India," Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda told reporters here.
About 4,000 engineers have spent five years for developing the car, he added.
When asked how the company could assure Indian consumers of a safe car when it is facing worldwide criticism for huge recalls, Toyoda said: "I would like to express my sincere apology for recalling some vehicles on quality issue. It is sure that we had some recall events. My answer is Toyota cars are safe."
The Japanese car major has so far recalled about 10 million units across the world over the last 18-24 months. Currently, it sells about seven million units a year globally.
"Etios is symbolising and epitomising the quality of Toyota. We have taken so much time and effort to develop it for Indian consumers.It is suited to local conditions.
"Sometimes the conditions may not be perfect and Etios may have some problem. Please feel free to bring the car to our sales dealership...so it can smile again and can be driven for many years," Toyoda said.
The company has invested Rs 3,200 crore to set up its second manufacturing facility in the country to roll out the car. It has launched the car with a 1.5 litre petrol engine and plans to introduce a small car variant of the model, named Liva, with a 1.2 litre petrol engine in April next year.
The booking process for the Etios sedan has started from today, while deliveries will start from January, 2011.
Elaborating on Etios, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) Managing Director Hiroshi Nakagawa said about 70 per cent of the components used are locally sourced. Only critical components like engines and transmissions are imported.
"However, we are preparing to start local production of these major components in next 2-3 years. If this is realised, then localisation (of Etios) will be 90 per cent," he added.
Nakagawa also said the new plant will employ about 2,000 people. The company has over 2,500 staff at its existing facility, which has a production capacity of about 80,000 units per annum.