Buy­ers play per­cent­ages

Cheap money is help­ing to push up sales, writes Neil Dowl­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

LOW-IN­TER­EST fi­nance is lead­ing the charge in at­tract­ing buy­ers, says Toy­ota. It also points to the fu­ture of how Aus­tralians will pay for, but may never own, a new car.

Toy­ota Aus­tralia boss Dave But­tner says all the tricks of the car sales­man’s trade are be­ing pulled out in the fight to re­tain mar­ket dom­i­nance.

He says the 2.9 per cent fi­nance deal for Yaris and Corolla — which started on Novem­ber 1 and ends on Jan­uary 31 — was ‘‘work­ing well’’.

Na­tional year-to-date sales fig­ures to the end of Oc­to­ber show Toy­ota is up 8.1 per cent over­all but there has been a 0.2 per cent fall in Corolla sales.

‘‘Our deal­ers tell us that since Novem­ber 1 the in­quiry rate and the con­ver­sion rate — that is, to sales — are above our tar­gets,’’ he says.

‘‘The light and small cars are clearly the growth seg­ment and we have to en­sure we are in the prime po­si­tion.

‘‘Cur­rently we’re be­tween mod­els. We are not in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of, say, 2007 when we had seven new mod­els in the one year.

‘‘Ev­ery new model means a 2-5 per cent in­crease in mar­ket share. It’s very im­por­tant.

‘‘But this year we don’t have that lux­ury.’’

So Toy­ota Aus­tralia, which is the only lo­cal car­maker with its own fi­nance arm, is cross-sell­ing prod­ucts from the show­room and the cash reg­is­ter. ‘‘It is an ex­ten­sion of our capped-price ser­vic­ing and is aimed at mak­ing cars more af­ford­able to own­ers,’’ he says.

‘‘It is fully funded by Toy­ota Aus­tralia,’’ says Mr But­tner in an­swer to ques­tions about fac­tory sub­si­dies. ‘‘We’re do­ing this by our­selves.’’

‘‘But it’s not a cheap ex­er­cise. It costs us a lot of money to do this three-month pro­gram so it has to be profitable.’’

But­tner ex­pects the low-fi­nance of­fers on Yaris and Corolla to be ex­tended to other Toy­ota mod­els, per­haps Camry and Au­rion, af­ter Jan­uary.

Toy­ota’s 2.9 per cent fi­nance, which is over 48 months and car­ries a 40 per cent bal­loon pay­ment at the end, also hints at a fu­ture when buy­ers will never own their cars.

But­tner in­di­cates that pay­ing for a new car for a set pe­riod un­der a plan, sim­i­lar to a mo­bile phone plan, was a likely sce­nario.

A new-car fi­nance plan may be closer than we think be­cause it forms the ba­sis for ‘‘ own­ing’’ BMW’s MegaC­ity elec­tric city car, due in early 2013.

Work­ing well: the Yaris (above) is ben­e­fit­ing from a low-in­ter­est deal.

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