How to KO a gi­ant

The Corolla is set to knock the Com­modore off its perch, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE in­cred­i­ble reign of the Holden Com­modore at the top of Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing could end soon. The fam­ily favourite has been No.1 for more than 10 years and has beaten the Ford Fal­con many times, but it has no an­swer to the Toy­ota Corolla. Like a Ja­panese David against the all-Aussie Go­liath, the Corolla has cut down the Com­modore as more and more peo­ple turn against petrol-guz­zlers. The Corolla has turned oc­ca­sional show­room vic­to­ries over the Com­modore last year into a long-run­ning pat­tern this year, build­ing a 1092-car lead at the half­way point of the sales race. Holden is about to hit back with its VE Sport­wagon, pre­viewed in to­day, but Toy­ota Aus­tralia is con­fi­dent it will de­liver 48,000 or more Corol­las by the end of the year and is fi­nally talk­ing about tak­ing top spot. ‘‘It’s like cream ris­ing to the top,’’ Toy­ota Aus­tralia sales and mar­ket­ing chief Dave But­tner says. ‘‘There is ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity the Corolla will be No.1, and I’ve never said that be­fore. ‘‘We’re ready to re­peat our per­for­mance through the first half of the year and, if the large-six mar­ket con­tin­ues in the di­rec­tion it is go­ing, it will be a good re­sult for us. ‘‘If we can con­tinue as we are go­ing, at 2200 Corol­las a month on av­er­age with the de­cline in big sixes, then I be­lieve it will be suf­fi­cient.’’ Toy­ota has been sell­ing the Corolla in Aus­tralia since 1967 and has never done bet­ter than to­day. It de­liv­ered 24,415 cars in the first six months of the year, a cars­Guide 7.3 per cent im­prove­ment over the same pe­riod last year. But it is not just the Corolla. Small cars are boom­ing and Toy­ota is rid­ing a wave that has also made the Mazda3 the coun­try’s No.3 pas­sen­ger car, ahead of the Holden Com­modore and the Ford Fal­con. The work­ing-class Toy­ota HiLux is sec­ond over­all. ‘‘If you look at that seg­ment alone, it’s grown from 18 to 38 per cent of the pas­sen­ger-car mar­ket,’’ But­tner says of the small-car sec­tor. ‘‘It’s a very com­pet­i­tive seg­ment. If you look at small cars un­der $40,000 there are a lot of good cars and per­form­ers.’’ The Corolla is so good that it sells with­out much ef­fort, sit­ting com­fort­ably near 50,000 year af­ter year and lead­ing its class for eight straight years. ‘‘In terms of the mar­ket­ing spend, we don’t need to put as much ef­fort into sell­ing the Corolla. It has had a solid rep­u­ta­tion for many, many years. The prod­uct of­fer­ing, with value for money, qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, has made it an en­dur­ing prod­uct.’’ Glob­ally, Toy­ota has sold 34 mil­lion cars since the Corolla was born in 1966, an av­er­age one ev­ery 40 sec­onds. This year the com­pany is build­ing a Corolla ev­ery 23.3 sec­onds at 16 fac­to­ries for sales in 140 coun­tries.

AUS­TRALIA al­most lost the Corolla last year when head of­fice in Ja­pan pushed for a change to the Auris name used in Europe. ‘‘Corolla is a name we fought to keep. Oth­ers around the world moved but we kept it,’’ But­tner says. He knows the Corolla will have a tough fight to the end of the year, par­tic­u­larly with Holden get­ting the Sport­wagon to sell along­side its VE Com­modore sedan. And he has a vested in­ter­est in big-six busi­ness be­cause Toy­ota also has its Au­rion to build and sell. ‘‘I hope the Com­modore wagon is suc­cess­ful. But it is sell­ing in a seg­ment where the large six is down an­other 16.2 per cent this year. It’s a seg­ment that’s in de­cline.’’ And he is hedg­ing on the im­por­tance of No.1 for the Corolla, even though it would match the one Toy­ota has won re­peat­edly for over­all sales lead­er­ship since the start of the 21st cen­tury. ‘‘It hasn’t been a tar­get of ours for Corolla to be No.1,’’ But­tner says. ‘‘But if we can main­tain this per­for­mance there is a very strong pos­si­bil­ity it could be No.1 for the year.’’

Lead­ing the charge: the Toy­ota Corolla Levin SX (right) and the Corolla As­cent are head­ing for the top.

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