Toyota Motor Corp. is making a major design overhaul of its Vios and Yaris models to fit it in for the Chinese market as part of its move to enter the no-frills entry-level segment of the world's largest vehicle market, Hiroji Onishi, head of Toyota's China operations, disclosed during the Shanghai auto show. Onishi remarked that while versions of the Vios and Yaris have performed well in the United States, Europe and Japan, the models have yet to log sufficient progress in China.
Onishi said that Toyota tried to provide the Vios and Yaris models a proper "daqi" stance -- a local phrase used for a car's road presence -- and improved fuel efficiency.
The overhaul of the Vios and Yaris is considered vital in Toyota's counterstrategy in China, where its sales suffered a lot in 2012 after Chinese consumers boycotted Japanese products due to a territorial row between Beijing and Tokyo over some islands in the East China Sea.
According to Onishi, it could take Toyota at least a year to recover its former glory in China, using the new no-frills models as leverage.
The major design overhaul of the existing Vios sedan and Yaris hatchback is considered as Toyota’s acknowledgement of its mistake in reading the Chinese vehicle market even before the territorial dispute between China and Japan in September 2012.
The new sedan and hatchbacks will retain the existing model names when they hit Chinese showrooms by the end of 2013.
Toyota regards the new vehicles as critical to its China strategy as they are planned as high-volume models to regain momentum in the Chinese market. The new models are aimed to restore branding after the Yaris failed to attract buyers – partly due to its 'daqi' and due to its high price.