High hopes for hy­brid

Pri­vate buy­ers help push up sales, writes Neil McDon­ald

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On Road -

MUMS and dads are slowly grav­i­tat­ing to­wards Toy­ota’s Hy­brid Camry. The lo­cally built hy­brid has only been on sale since Fe­bru­ary, but Toy­ota Aus­tralia se­nior ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor sales and mar­ket­ing David But­tner is pleased with its early sales fig­ures.

But­tner says 32 per cent of buy­ers are pri­vate cus­tomers who specif­i­cally want a Camry hy­brid over a Prius.

‘‘ There isn’t a lot of crossshop­ping go­ing on,’’ But­tner says.

Toy­ota even­tu­ally ex­pects pri­vate buy­ers to make up 40 per cent of Camry hy­brid own­ers, with the rest go­ing to fleets. Many buy­ers are mi­grat­ing from large six­cylin­der cars, But­tner says.

‘‘We’ve got to get our­selves, over time, to a monthly rate that gives us 10,000 sales a year,’’ he says.

Since its launch, 1686 have been sold, ac­cord­ing to April’s VFACTS sales fig­ures.

Mo­men­tum is build­ing, but But­tner says be­cause of its dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy it is not an easy sell among prospec­tive buy­ers.

‘‘Like any new ve­hi­cle launch, to get to your run­ning rate will take time,’’ he says. ‘‘As we found with the Lexus hy­brid, with this tech­nol­ogy, peo­ple’s pur­chase de­ci­sions take a lot longer,’’ he says.

The medium-four seg­ment has grown al­most 13 per cent this year and Camry Hy­brid has a share of 8.6 per cent, he says.

Toy­ota’s star cars con­tinue to be the HiLux, Corolla and Yaris. Over­all sales are tracking to an­other 200,000-plus year for Toy­ota, but But­tner is not com­pla­cent.

‘‘As the year pro­gresses, the pace of growth should ac­cel­er­ate and we are ex­pect­ing the in­dus­try to re­turn to sales in ex­cess of one mil­lion in 2011,’’ he says.

Re­duced tar­iffs and the small­busi­ness tax break are hav­ing a fol­low-through ef­fect, he says.

In de­mand: Toy­ota has sold more than 1680 Hy­brid Cam­rys.

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