Toyota sees variety as tonic to jaundiced sales

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Toyota sees variety as tonic to jaundiced sales

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Hisao Nakabayashi, Toyota Motor Korea’s chief executive officer, right, poses next to the new Prius at an event in southern Seoul yesterday. [NEWSIS]

Toyota has vowed to launch a range of new vehicles in Korea this year as the Japanese carmaker shows signs of bouncing back from a devastating 2011 underscored by parts shortages at home led by an earthquake and tsunami there last March.

Official importer Toyota Motor Korea said yesterday it will expand its lineup for local customers by introducing the Lexus GS sedan in early March, the Toyota 86 small sports car in the first half of this year and the Toyota Venza crossover sport utility vehicle before Christmas.

This comes on top of the new Prius hybrid models that it launched in Korea yesterday at highly competitive prices.

The low-end Prius E is selling for 31.3 million won ($27,870), or 6.6 million won cheaper than its predecessor. The midrange Prius M costs 37.7 million won, and the high-end Prius S is priced at 41.2 million won. Toyota hopes to sell a combined 250 units a month this year.

Meanwhile, the Venza will be the automaker’s third creation to be produced in the U.S. and then shipped directly to Korea after the Camry midsize sedan and Sienna minivan.

In an aggressive marketing push, Hisao Nakabayashi, Toyota Motor Korea’s chief executive officer, said the company intends to sell 20,700 Toyota and Lexus vehicles this year in the country. This breaks down as 13,000 Toyotas, up 160 percent from last year, and 7,700 Lexus cars, a rise of 90 percent from 2011.

If the company meets its targets, it will probably see Toyota emerge as one of the top selling foreign brands in the country along with BMW.

“Our policy is to sell good products at a low price and meet customers’ needs,” Nakabayashi said. “We’ll pursue this policy even if we face difficulties.”

When asked whether Toyota Motor Korea intends to import its vehicles from Europe, he said the matter is now under review.

Toyota’s performance in the country this year is seen as being more than satisfactory. Some 433 Camry sedans were sold in January, making it the best-selling import after BMW’s 520d and 528. Toyota ranked as the fifth foreign brand by sales that month, with 794 cars sold. Nakabayashi said it will be able to offload 500 Camrys per month on average. Imports accounted for over 10 percent of the domestic market for the first time in January, when 9,441 units were sold.

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr ]

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