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Bring on the baby SUV, says Toyota’s Cramb

Come on: Toyota’s C-HR small crossover vehicle is high on the wishlist of Toyota Australia.

Toyota Australia eagerly awaits arrival of small crossover based on C-HR concept


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7 Jan 2015

AUSTRALIA’S SUV sales leader, Toyota, is champing at the bit to fill a gap at the lower end of its range to take advantage of the nation’s fastest-growing motor market segment – small SUVs.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing executive director Tony Cramb indicated as much in his speech this week at the VFACTS sales data announcement in Sydney, saying the Toyota C-HR concept – shown at last year’s Paris motor show – was “an important pointer to a vehicle we’d like to introduce to Australia down the track”.

The European-designed C-HR is a sports crossover vehicle in the same mould as the Nissan Juke and part of Toyota president Akio Toyoda’s plan to spice up the Toyota range.

Powered by a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that is said to be earmarked for the next Toyota Prius, the C-HR – standing for C-segment hybrid crossover – is thought to be scheduled for production in a toned-down guise and under a new name in about 2016-17.

Most pundits expect the production version to get conventional petrol and diesel powertrains alongside the hybrid drive.

While Toyota has all the other SUV bases covered with models ranging from the mid-sized RAV4 to the big LandCruiser 200 wagon – as well as luxury Lexus variants – it is late to the compact SUV party where most of its major rivals are whooping it up.

According to VFACTS sales data, the small SUV segment grew more than 16 per cent in 2014 – the most of any vehicle class in an overall market down 2.0 per cent for the year.

With 80,609 sales last year, the segment is catching up with the one-size larger medium SUV sector, dominated by top-selling models such as the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota’s own RAV4.

Last year, Australians bought 112,383 medium SUVs – a rise of 4.0 per cent over 2013.

Mr Cramb clearly sees the upcoming production version of the C-HR as its answer to the sub-RAV4 gap in its range.

“I’m excited by that concept," he said. "I think that concept is something that would work really well in Australia.

"I can’t sell something that’s not made, so if they make it, we’ve defintely got our hand up for it and we’d definitely like to see it here in Australia and I think Australian customers would love it.”

In case anyone had missed it, he pointed out that the C-HR had been featured in an introductory video ahead of his remarks.

Mr Cramb said Australians bought 150,000 more SUVs last year than they did in 2007, taking the SUV chunk of the market from less than 19 per cent to more than 31 per cent in that timeframe.

Toyota sold 56,663 SUVs in 2014, clocking up its fifth consecutive year of record sales and leading the next best contender, Nissan, by a 22,000-vehicle margin.

The RAV4 was Toyota’s best-selling SUV in 2013 with a record 18,160 sales.

Prado (16,112) was next best in the Toyota armoury.

While Toyota has a dominant 16.1 per cent share of the SUV market, its slice shrank by 0.7 percentage points last year due to the growth in the small SUV sector where it has no contender. As well, Toyota is punching below its weight in SUVs compared with its overall market share, which is 18.3 per cent.

By contrast, its light commercial vehicle share is a whopping 27.6 per cent, thanks mainly to the performance of its HiLux and Hiace.

While Toyota waits for its first small SUV, the market segment is only going to get hotter in the next 12 months, with vehicles such as the highly anticipated Mazda CX-3 arriving in about the second quarter of this year.

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