Last month, Toyota invited the Japanese press to join them for “the opening ceremony for its new plant in Brazil on August 9,” a three day event in and around Sao Paulo. The excitement lowered considerably as the Fourth Estate ventured to the bottom of the invitation. There it said that “flight costs to and from Brazil and all accommodation costs will need to be covered by participants themselves.” That’s Toyota as we know and love it. If you have dreams of lavish press jaunts, don’t dream them in Japan. The event happened yesterday, without yours truly. The Nikkei [sub] hopefully sent its local stringer, and it reports what we know anyway: “Toyota Motor Corp. will kick off production of a strategic small car aimed at the emerging-market middle class next month at a new plant in Brazil.” And the new car is the Etios.
Here at TTAC, we have followed the Etios from the get-go, and we talked to the car’s Chief Engineer Yoshinori Noritake a few times. The Etios is an interesting concept. It is Toyota’s car for the emerging markets. Toyota does not do what most other car manufacturers would do. Like take an existing, or worse, a former generation car and hope it will sell. The Etios was newly developed from the ground up, for India first, but with an eye on all emerging markets.
Toyota also did not fall for the “logical” trap of selling a cheap little car. Cheap little cars usually are just a gateway drug when it comes to cars. People quickly want a real car, Noritake found out in India: “People aspire to a real sedan with room for the family.” Where roads are bad, people want a sturdy car with high ground clearance. The Etios is not a faux cross-over. It hides its ruggedness under an elegant suit.
The Etios was an instant success in India. It went to South Afria. It most likely will be built in Russia, and China. And now, the Etios is in the B of the BRICs, in Brazil.
According to The Nikkei, word on the street in Brazil is that the car will go for “between 35,000 reais and 48,000 reais,” which would be between $17,000 and $24,000. Says the Nikkei:
“This would make the Etios the lowest-priced Toyota vehicle in Brazil. While offering a price that is affordable for the Brazilian middle class, however, Toyota intends to stay away from price competition. This means the vehicle will likely be priced rather high compared with rival models such as Nissan Motor Co.’s March, Volkswagen AG’s Gol and Fiat SpA’s Palio.”
“We plan to promote premium features, such as fuel economy and driving stability,” Senior Managing Officer Hisayuki Inoue, told the Tokyo wire. “All we have learned about the Brazilian market is packed into the new vehicle.”
That attentiveness to customer demands had helped making the Etios a success in India. As we found out firsthand a year ago, Toyota even provided a little shelf space in the dash where to put the statuette of a Hindu god, and they made sure that bare feet don’t get marred by the seat rails.
It’ll be interesting to know what they came up with in Brazil.