By on September 23, 2012

Little known to many, Toyota’s first venture out of their home country was in Brazil. Over 50 years ago, they built factory here in which they manufactured a version of their Land Cruiser, called it Bandeirante and kept on building it, unchanged, for almost four decades. When the Brazilian market opened up (ever so slightly) in the 90s, Toyota was relatively quick and soon had a second factory in which they built their Corolla. That was it. Until the Etios arrived.

Convinced by recent policy changes in Brazil that make the life of a car importer miserable unless factories are built on Brazilian soil, Toyota built a new plant near Sao Paulo, and started to crank out its BRIC-car, the Etios. The Etios was originally launched in the eye of BRIC, in India. Now, the car comes to the B. In Brazil, the Etios is aimed at the very heart of the market, the compact car. It already causes heart palpitations.

Last month, Toyota took the car on a road show, dubbed the Etios Connection Experience, exhibiting the sedan and hatch versions at chosen locations in major cities. Brazilian enthusiast site Bestcars  reported that Toyota was fishing for pre-orders during the roadshow, saying that the car would cost between R$35,000 and R$48,000 (US$17,500 to US$24,000), depending on engine and trim level.

Presumably, Toyota did not get of pre-orders it hoped for, and embarked on a novel marketing strategy. Toyota discounted the price before the car was launched. According to a new Bestcars report, at the official wine and dine fest for the press, Toyota shocked the assembled Fourth Estate by announcing that the car would cost between R$30,000 and R$44,700 (US$15,000 to US$22,350) , depending on engine and trim level, of course, you know the routine.

Instead of rejoicing at the $2,500 deal, the Brazilian motor press pounced on the matter, and said the car is sold cheaper because of its lame design. Says Bestcars:

“Without a doubt, the price reduction is due to the market’s reaction to the model’s static presentation, be it at the Connection shows throughout the country, be it to pictures of the car divulged through the press.”

All I can say is that I went to one of these shows and the car’s design is, at best, quaint. As Bestcars put it after their test drive:

“It is not easy to fall in love with the Etios’ design. The car reminds one of models from the 80s and 90s, with details of questionable taste like the grille and lights. They are similar to a Logan, and this is far from being a compliment.“

The center mounted instrument cluster appears to be universally hated by the press. Otherwise, the car does not seem to elicit strong emotions. An ambivalent Bestcars says that the manual five speed is precise and has good throws, but is not brilliant. The acceleration is acceptable, but nothing to brag about. Noise levels are fine, but exist. Steering is correct, but rather numb. Braking is progressive, but… must we say more?

Only the car’s India-proof suspension makes journalistic hearts beat a little faster. According to the reviews, the Etios handles the (bad) roads of Brazil quietly and competently, but is never too hard. Bestcars says the set-up is robust and well-adjusted to Brazilian conditions and that the car will probably last a long time.

Despised by the pundits, boring design, driving dynamics out of a lullaby, built to last, and already $2,500 less?

Toyota could have a winner.

After all, Renault is setting new sales records in Brazil with its likewise maligned Logan & Co. 

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25 Comments on “Toyota Etios in Brazil: Blasé Market Reaction Makes Toyota Slash Prices...”


  • avatar
    raincoconuts

    They sell a lot of these in India. Especially the 1.4 diesel.
    Same motor(slightly higher output) in the India Corolla. It’s quiet and though no rocket, reasonably competent, excellent mileage. The car is roomy, looks dated inside/out. Actually reminds me of the Eccccch-O(Toyota Echo)…..

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    needs the India 1.4 turbodiesel, 6 spd. manual, optional 4wd and a wagon… and brown, and it’ll sell a storm in the US

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I just checked toyota.com.br and can’t find it yet….?

    • 0 avatar
      mmarreco

      Try http://www.etiostoyota.com.br

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a dedicated site: http://www.etiostoyota.com.br

      Toyota is trying their hardest to make the car ‘cool’. First the whole ‘connection’ thing now the dedicated sitelet. Full of Brazilian musicians to give it some flair. Of course, much like the car, those musicians were hot in the 80s and 90s. Much like the car’s design!

      Sorry Toyota, you made too easy. Impossible to resist the cheap shot…

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    That centered instrument cluster. Ugh.

    Question for Marcelo: Is the Brazilian taste in cars similar to Europeans? For example, is fun-to-drive and good handling important?

    Fiat and Renault are big in Brazil you say, and in Europe at least those brands are known for being good to drive. Toyota is not.

    • 0 avatar

      Brazilian tastes are all over the place. To some, fun and handling are paramount, but nowadays a cushy ride is valued.

      Example: VW and Fiat. VW set the bar for the market. VW controlled more than 50% of the market for years. It was the leader since Brazil closed the borders and forced makers to produce locally. They were leaders for 40 yrs. In the last 10 years, Fiat took over the market. Of course, this has to do with (value) pricing. But it also has to do with the car’s feel. When Fiat first came to Brazil they tried to outsport VW. They failed. Their cars became increasinly comfortable and the pedals and levers and stalks are lighter to operate than VW’s. The market rewarded Fiat for their softness which some confuse with flimsyness.

      Now, Renault and Nissan are trying to take over value pricing and have managed to carve a 10% market share debunking Ford from 3rd.

      So, as Chevrolet here always based their cars on Opel, Ford on Euro Ford and Fiat and VW are of course European, the feel of a Brazilian car is very European. Throw in a good dosis of value pricing and ease of repair, that’s what it takes for a car to be successful in Brazil.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        Hmm I don’t see this Toyota competing so well on “fun and cool” with the Europeans.

        Renault makes some very good small cars, such as the Clio. I am always impressed when I drive one. French magic carpet ride and handling.

      • 0 avatar

        @Polar Bear

        I bet Toyota is betting on the brand. The Corolla has been the leader in their segment, which here unfortunately is the executive segment. However, I do see signs of people getting bored with it. In this segment, people who care about cars are tending towards the Civic, Renault Fluence, Cruze and Fusion. As a company car though,and for those looking for an ‘unbreakable’ appliance, a large segment of that market is taken by Toyota.

        The same will happen with the Etios. Many looking for ease of mind will buy it, especially those that don’t care about cars. If they do care, there are many options out there. The design will be a huge stumbling block. I bet Toyota will be in the top 4 or 5 with Etios, but won’t get first or second.

        As to French cars, I agree. Their suspension engineering is probably only bested, IMO, by Euro Ford. Fiat comes close (though not so consistently, some of their cars are better than others), while VW to me is too harsh. I have owned 3 Renault and am on the prowl for a 4th. The best of them is the suspension, fuel economy and creature comforts. The worst is at times difficult problems to solve in that they have problems that are specific to each car and not something spread out through all that specific line of cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        Thank you for that information, Marcello. I look forward to seeing how this Toyota will do in Brazil. It seems to me a “meh” product going up against European cars wich have more flair and charm.

  • avatar
    Advo

    Maybe they should have styled it similar to the current Lexus look – I guess that’s their executive theme styling now.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “Instead of rejoicing at the $2,500 deal, the Brazilian motor press pounced on the matter, and said the car is sold cheaper because of its lame design.”

    It looks like the press will always bag this car. No worries… at all.

    That badge and a right price will overcome its ugliness. Specially in countries where people has already drunk the Toyota=Premium/Luxury Kool-Aid entirely.

    The Logan was ugly (may still be), but delivers the bagettes/tofu/feijoada for the right price. At $12.5 grand this thing will cause Fiat, VW y los demás a big headache.

    It will be interesting to watch the sales charts.

    • 0 avatar

      Hola Athos!

      Problem with Etios is that it is extremely basic. The base level price, which is attractive in theory, offers only air bags and electric steering.

      Now let me explicit here: Brazilians don’t give a damn for Air Bags. It’s considered a nice to have but at the 30k to 40k price the deal breaker is AC. Lots of cars offer AC at under what the Etios will. Seems like the cheapest Etios with AC will cost around 36 thousand. 36! Off the top of my head, the Uno, Palio, Logan, Sandero, Gol, Fox, Fiesta all offer ac for less

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        No air condition in a tropical country? I live in the tropics too and I would not go near a car like that. What are they THINKING? That the Toyota name is enough?

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Oi mate!

        Cars being basic has never been a problem for Toyota in Vzla. Never. Some people may complain, but as many things there… Toyota es Toyota or Telcel es Telcel (before Movistar), or … you get the idea.

        That said, the lack of AC is a huge no no. AC is a deal breaker in Vzla, and it better be stock and bloody cold at that. I dunno in Brazil, but I guess is similar.

      • 0 avatar

        @Polar Bear
        Latest data is that at the base level (Gol 4, Mille, Ka, Celta,Classic etc – which BTW are all under Etios) latest data shows that above half come with assited steering and only about 25% have AC. However, those levels are many times higher than even 5 yrs ago.

        At above 30k reais, I don’t have the numbers but I think 100% have assited steering and AC would be present in (I’m guessing) more than 70%. I believe only gov agencies and company fleets will buy Etios without. I f you are a private buyer and buy without AC, you’ll be in a situation that Brazilians call “married to the car”, in that you’ll have an almost impossible time selling it.

      • 0 avatar

        Hola de nuevo AThos amigo.

        Privste buyers above 30k and under 20k see answer to Polar Bear above. Above the 40k real mark it’s almost 100% power steering and AC. I mean, everybody wants ac but it’s still seen as an optional for cheaper passenger cars and commercial vehicles. In almost all Brazilian cities ac is not present on city buses!

        Once I was at a meeting at Iveco and I saw a paper with orders for the following months from various South American company. On said list were number of vans ordered as well as equipment. In it you can see the level of cruelty Brazilian companies submit their workers (rough numbers as this was 2 or 3 yrs ago).:

        Peru 20 vans, 20 power steering, 17 AC
        Colombia 35 vans, 30 with power steering, 20 with AC
        Venezuela 80 vans, 70 power steering, all with AC
        Argentina 150 vans, all with power steering and AC
        Brazil 400 vans, about 300 with power steering, slightly less than half with AC.

      • 0 avatar
        Magnusmaster

        It’s funny how Toyota gets totally wrong the few things they have to get right. People in South America (well, except the Chileans who live in another dimension, but that’s beyond the point) don’t care about airbags, or build quality, or if the car has plastics so rough they harm you. I bet a lot of Brazilians (or Argentinians) don’t even know what an airbag is. A lot like gadgets like Bluetooth and interior space (so you get stuff like a fancy radio but you pay extra for airbags) , but there are three things that you must absolutely get right in a Brazilian car:

        1) electric steering on all trims
        2) air conditioning on all trims
        3) a traditional instrument cluster. Forget about digital speedometers, stuff on the center of the dash or even replacing the temperature gauge with a light. Don’t experiment on the dashboard, period. Citroen and Chevrolet already got trouble for this, and they actually know how to design a car.

        Comparing the Etios with the Logan is a sin. The Logan is ugly, but it’s not an abomination and is actually well-designed, and might even be a good car. The Etios is a mess. IMHO, it’s of the worst cars to be released in South America in the last decade, and that is saying something considering the garbage we get.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Well Marcelo, to be honest, a Daily van without P/S is itself punishing. IIRC Venezuelan spec Daily got P/S standard across the board.

        The AC system is a separate unit IIRC. I remember seeing the system being installed to a load of them once.

        The thing is, in Vzla a van without AC would be a non seller (I guess that’s why those got AC fitted). Specially if the competition has one with it.

        Regarding buses without AC… umm, well, I wholeheartedly hate public transport for various reasons, one of them (although minor) being that. Another is the bone crushing leaf spring suspensions, the lack of personal security, the overcrowding (twice the bus capacity much?), general filthiness, pollution, system unreliability and… could go on but you get the idea.

        Buses (and PT in general) down here doesn’t compare with the hopeless excuse of PT people is forced to use in the 3rd world. The difference is that big.

        Although I still hate it, I can stand using it here. But giving up the car altogether for it? no señor

      • 0 avatar

        @Magnusmaster: Agree on all points. Somebody should hire you!

        On Logan, totally agree, though the design is itself questionable, somehow in the Logan it’s justified. Maybe the squareness just seems honest or purposeful. The Etios looks like a shruken Logan that somebody forgot out in the sun and it melted.

        BTW, the Etios has those airbags ’cause the law says all new cars must. The assisted steering is a market demand though.

  • avatar
    niky

    The sad thing is… if this thing has the interior space it seems to have, and given the economical choice of engines (as well as indications that the suspension is a lot tougher than in the Yarii), it should be a winner.

    But it’s very hard to get past styling that is not only dull… but criminally lazy. It’s as if they took what was bad about the 90′s Echo sedans and made it WORSE.

    -

    Slash another 2.5k, Toyota… and I’ll buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      you nailed it Niky. For 27 to 28 and AC at 31k reais it would sell at at a fast clip ’cause that’d be in line with others at the Etios level. But 30k witout and 36k with AC is too much, IMO, just for the Toyota badge. It’ll be interesting to see what the market says.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    What’s good for the goose (India) may not be good for the gander (Brazil)…

  • avatar
    spw

    Last week we had Indian journalist telling us how awful Etios is and how badly it sells (even though it doesnt), now it is Brasilian car.

    Etios is easy car to hate – it is not built to be stylish.

    Good points that have to be said is that it has modern fuel efficient engines (latest NR series), and that it is very safe car.

    I watch noticiasautomotivas.com.br for Brasilian market news and they wanted to hate it so bad, but ended up being surpised at how good it drives, space available and good engines.

    Toyota will launch 8 new cars based on that platform, so we will see if they do anything regards to style. Brasilian Etios has some improvements compared to original Indian one already.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Aha. So this is the new Yaris, Echo and Vios?


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