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Toyota defends Camry Hybrid In Australia

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Toyota defends Camry Hybrid


July 27, 2010 - 4:40PM

Toyota says misconceptions about hybrids are hampering local sales.

Toyota will launch a marketing campaign to dispel “myths” that it says are discouraging private buyers from considering the Australian-built Hybrid Camry.

The company says some buyers still think the car has to be plugged in, while others are concerned about battery life, performance and reliability.

Launched in February with much fanfare as the first Australian-built petrol-electric hybrid, the Camry has sold about 3000 examples in its first four months on sale, according to Toyota. That figure is about 10 per cent less than forecast.

Toyota senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner admits private buyers haven’t embraced the car as much as the company had forecast. Private buyers make up 25 per cent of total sales, rather than the forecast 40 per cent.

“We are not panicking or concerned about the (sales) performance of the car,” said Buttner.

“We recognise we have to keep promoting the car and supporting it in the marketplace.”

Buttner said the marketing campaign would be “sophisticated” and focus on the “features and benefits” of the car. It will launch in August.

The marketing campaign will back up a 2.9 per cent financing offer Toyota has already launched for the Hybrid Camry private buyers.

Buttner says the myths Toyota will seek to dispel include: the belief the Hybrid Camry requires plugging in to recharge; concerns about battery performance deterioration; that the technology has reliability issues; and that power levels from the hybrid drivetrain are poor.

“We do have to keep educating, and you never dispel myths overnight,” said Buttner.

“There is still more education we need to do and we are doing research month over month to understand if the myths are being dispelled.

“They slowly are, but I reckon it could take another 12 months.”

Buttner said Toyota’s global recall issues, now involving close to 10 million vehicles, had briefly been an issue keeping private buyers away from the Hybrid Camry.

But he said research Toyota had access to indicated Australians had quickly overcome concerns about the quality of the brand, after losing some faith when the recall issue was at its height earlier in 2010.

“For the months of February, March and half of April a lot of the brand desirability, reputation for safety, thoughts about hybrid… a lot of those things dropped off. But now they are pretty much back where they were.”

The Hybrid Camry is offered in two models grades with pricing starting from $36,990. Its petrol-electric drivetrain produces more power and torque than the orthodox Camry while consuming less fuel (claimed).

Buttner confirmed Toyota intends to continue manufacturing the Hybrid Camry alongside the four-cylinder Camry and Aurion V6 when the next generation starts rolling out late in late 2011.

Toyota has denied it stopped publishing individual sales figures on the hybrid Camry because of slow sales. The company published hybrid model sales figures for the first two months the car was on sale, before incorporating them into overall Camry sales in May and June.

The company says it was a mistake the car was listed separately in the first place. Hybrid Camry sales were initially well below target, with just 944 units sold in the first two months against a target of more than 1600.

But since the figures went private, the company says it has sold more than 2000 vehicles in just two months. That brings the monthly average to 750, still below the initial target of 833 a month, or 10,000.



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