Its supply chain in tatters earlier this year, Toyota has rebounded from the effects of Japan's tsunami and says its position as New Zealand market leader for the 25th year running is no longer in doubt.
The company is planning its own tsunami of new models over the next two years, starting with a facelifted Hilux ute and a sleeker, roomier Yaris small car.
Toyota's supply problem was caused by lack of electricity rather than factory damage. In May, at the lowest point, the company received only 400 cars, rather than the almost 1100 it had ordered.
"Based on strong sales early in the year, head office was saying we needed to look at adjusting our targets upwards," said spokesman Steve Prangnell, "then the tsunami struck and it was a catastrophe.
"We got no production at all from Japan for six weeks, but fortunately our supplies from Thailand and Altona [its Melbourne factory] continued."
Because Hilux comes from Thailand, Toyota was able to get its critical Fieldays stock.
It was widely speculated that the shortage would threaten an unbroken quarter century of market leadership. Toyota is expecting new vehicle sales this year to be about 81,000, much the same as 2010.
Prangnell said Toyota had made a remarkable recovery since the lows of May and was back to full production with such popular sellers as Corolla and RAV4 running at 120 per cent.
However, he admitted the shortages had affected dealers. "When people find they have to wait, they go to different brands."
Part of Toyota's new product direction is reflected at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne, which opens to the public today.
Toyota says its stand has one of the most extensive line-ups of "fresh vehicles" ever shown by a single company at an Australian motor show. Highlights include:
- An upgraded Hilux has some new bodywork, particularly at the front. Mechanically similar to the current model, it'll be available around October. Stability control becomes more widely available in the range. An all-new model, partly developed in New Zealand, will be introduced in 2013.
- A completely redesigned and more "European" Yaris hatchback is coming late October, with a sedan some time later. Toyota says it will bring a new level of fit and finish to the small-car segment, but the diesel version available in Europe will not be part of the mix.
- A completely new Camry will appear in the first quarter of 2012 in a range that will place greater emphasis on differences between fleet and private-market models. A hybrid version will again be among the model mix.
- A new Aurion will appear about the same time as Camry, but the Grande flagship will be dropped - the company hopes buyers of this low-volume model will move to the Lexus GS.
- Two new versions of the Prius are coming in 2012, a wagon seating up to seven and a small, sporty car based on the c Concept and aimed at young singles. It will have better fuel consumption than the regular Prius and Toyota's hoping it will be the country's cheapest hybrid.
- The company has also committed to a new sports car along the lines of the FT-86 II Concept. The two-seater is expected mid-2012 with a boxer petrol engine and lightweight body. Toyota's looking at a couple of versions and the possibility of a basic third model with a wide range of accessories so buyers could have a customised car. Toyota is eyeing its Thames factory to do the build-ups.
Cop this, officer
Toyota plans to have another shot at wresting the police-car contract away from Holden when it comes up for renewal in 2013. It will be putting forward a version of its V6 Aurion, a car already used by police in Victoria.
However, the company already has a high-profile toe in the law-enforcement world through the Camry driven by Graham Bell, presenter of the popular Police Ten-7 television show. It also has a low-profile presence - Toyota admits it has sold the police several undercover cars.By Phil Hanson