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Toyota takes the battle to Nissan

Swaraj Baggonkar/Mumbai 23 Nov 12 | 12:34 AM

Less than 48 hours after Nissan unveiled the Evalia, a multi-seater van with a surprising price package of Rs 8.89 lakh, arch-rival Toyota responded with the launch of a limited edition version of India’s largest selling people-mover, the Innova.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), the second biggest Japanese car maker in India after Suzuki, launched the all new Innova Aero (limited edition) at around Rs 12.33 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) to maintain the excitement around the seven year-old model.

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The Bangalore-based car maker has kept the premium-positioned Innova Aero so exclusive that only 1,200 units of it will be produced and will be on sale till December this year.

The Innova is the largest selling multi-utility vehicle in the country with sales of more than 6,500 units per month and a growth of 64 per cent this year so far. The Toyota model commands a share of 60 per cent in its segment.

Toyota’s Innova launch and the resultant buzz coupled with continued demand for the Mahindra Quanto and the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga seems to have dampened the demand for the Evalia. Both the Ertiga and Quanto are priced much below the Evalia and are seeing sales of 6,500 and 2,500 a month, respectively.

Priced at Rs 8.49 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) the Evalia was expected to sell 2,000-2,500 units a month, but the vehicle saw sales of just 195 units in October, as per data provided by SIAM. The Chennai-based company is targeting the family-car segment with this product which took three years to develop, said a senior Nissan official.

Usually bookings in the first month after the launch are often one of the best months. However, the Evalia has seen muted response even in the peak festive season.

Mahindra & Mahindra’s Xylo, Tata Motors Sumo and General Motors Chevrolet Tavera are the other players in this segment. The utility vehicle market saw sales of 367,012 units last year with a growth of 16.5 per cent, beating the industry's growth of five per cent, according to data provided by SIAM.

The new Innova Aero, which sports dual tone front bumper spoiler, dual tone rear bumper spoiler, side skirt roof spoiler Aero emblem, is already on sale.

Sandeep Singh, Deputy Managing Director (Marketing), TKM, said “Toyota Innova has delighted customers for seven years now. It set precedence by breaking the clutter and introducing a new segment to the Indian market. The new Innova Aero will provide new and unique ownership experience to customers who are looking for a trendy and sporty look."

While the Evalia is available in four variants, its top-end variant priced at Rs 9.99 lakh is only a shade expensive than the entry- level variant of the Innova priced at Rs 9.34 lakh, both models powered by Euro IV engines.

The top-end variant of the Evalia comes loaded with features like reverse camera which is absent on the Innova of the same class. Further, Nissan claims an ARAI-certified mileage of 19.3kmpl on the Evalia is 50 per cent better than competition.

Nissan is targeting domestic sales of 2,500 units of the Evalia every month though the target is to achieve the level of the Toyota Innova, said a senior company official. The Innova price range extends to Rs 13.84 lakh.

Takayuki Ishida, managing director and chief executive, Nissan Motors India, said, "Yes the sales estimate we have put in for the Evalia is conservative and we would like to reach to the level of the Toyota Innova eventually".

The utility vehicle market is set to witness further action with the recent launch of Mahindra Quanto, upcoming launches by Ashok Leyland, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Ford, General Motors, Force Motors and Renault.

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