Until recently, the Toyota Corolla has been a venerable sales juggernaut, providing Toyota Australia a license to print money.
However, now sales have begun to slow, with rivals like the Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30 eating into the Corolla’s sales dominance.
Orlando Rodriguez, Senior Product Public Relations Project Lead at Toyota Australia, says the company is waiting for more data before passing judgement on its small hatch’s success.
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“From launch, our volumes coming into the country were staggered to grow,” he said.
“We’d want the results from the first two months of this year to get a proper feel, now that it has been in the market for a while.
“Anecdotally, we are happy with the volumes and how it is going. There is no concern from our side of things.”
The arrival of the 12th generation Corolla last year saw cheaper variants dumped, and incremental price increases throughout the line-up.
The base Ascent variant was scrapped, meaning the entry cost for Toyota’s most popular passenger car has risen from $20,190 to $22,870 for the manual Ascent Sport.
Other models within the range have also nominally increased in price, with the SX hatch rising from $26,000 to $26,870 when fitted with an automatic transmission, and the flagship ZR costing $350 extra with a $30,370 sticker price.
In January 2019 sales data, the Corolla was registered 2417 times across the country, dropping it below the Mazda 3, which enjoyed 3201 registrations.
However, the Mazda 3 is currently in run-out, ahead of a new model arriving in Australia in Q2. Mazda Australia expects its remaining hatch stock to sell out as the first batch of next-gen cars become available.
Both the Mazda 3 and Corolla were down 11.6 and 12.9 percent respectively in January compared to figures achieved in the first month of 2018.
Toyota’s worst sales result for the Corolla since 2011 occurred in December last year, with just 2311 registrations nationwide, down 12.5 percent compared to the same time last year.
Numbers have gradually been dwindling since the Corolla was introduced to the local market in August, when 3033 registrations were recorded.
Overall, Corolla sales shrunk by 5.4 percent in 2018 compared to the prior 12 months.
One of the contributing factors to the slowing sales is a reluctance by rental companies to place orders for the new Corolla.
“From the first few months of sales, there has definitely been a stronger shift toward private buyers,” Rodriguez explained.
“The rentals have taken a smaller percentage, but we think that’s likely because those companies traditionally take a bit before they commit to buying new vehicles. It’s hard to tell how that is going to end up going long-term.
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“We’ve certainly noticed a stronger desire from private buyers to buy this model, and we are noticing a stronger skew toward the higher grades as well.
“Where we would have done more than 50 percent sold as entry grad previously that has dropped down to as low as 30-40 percent.”
Adding to the hurt was the fact Toyota Australia had its hands tied in the early stages of production by head office.
“In the first few months the sales figures were lower, but we were also struggling to get supply out of Japan because of global demand,” Rodriguez said.
“There were supply restrictions everywhere, but that has lifted. Though we are still restricted on the number of hybrids we can get into the country, meaning we can’t sell as many of those as we would like.”
Toyota Australia acknowledges another factor hurting Corolla sales is the continued shift to SUVs by the Australian car buying public. However, it is confident that overall sales for the company won’t be affected.
“We know things change in the market, and there are always going to be trends that move and shift,” Rodriguez added. “But the biggest strength of Toyota is the fact that if people are changing from one type of vehicle, then we will have a vehicle in another segment that will more than likely fill that need.
“What we are noticing, in general terms, is that while fewer people might be buying something like a Camry, they might be looking at something like a Kluger or RAV4. People are still moving within the Toyota family.”
Toyota Corolla sales figures:
- January 2019: 2417
- December 2018: 2311
- November 2018: 2659
- October 2018: 2663 -
- September 2018: 2917
- August 2018: 3033