Once upon a time, Toyota dominated the local people mover market with its Tarago. Those days are long gone, but the company has no plans to introduce new models to try and regain that crown.
Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales and marketing, said there are no plans at this point to introduce the latest generation of Alphard and Vellfire people mover to Australia, despite these vehicles having proved popular as grey imports.
Instead, Toyota is committing to the gargantuan Granvia.
“We’re quite happy with the way Granvia is selling in the Australian market, and we have no plans to expand on that vehicle,” said Mr Hanley.
“I will give our luxury brand Lexus a very good promotion here. Lexus has brought in the LM, which I believe unbelievably getting strong pickup and demand on the market… It offers what I believe a people mover needs to offer in the Australian market.
“But on the Toyota side, Granvia is doing nicely.”
Toyota sold just 112 examples in 2013, down 28.2 per cent. LDV sold more than four times as many MIFAs, Hyundai sold around 10 times as many Starias, and Kia sold more than 100 times as many Carnivals.
It has a higher base price than any of those, opening at $68,306 before on-road costs, and yet the even pricier Mercedes-Benz V-Class outsold it with 377 units.
It’s a far cry from the Tarago, which Toyota consistently sold approximately 900-1000 units of annually between 2012 and 2017. It was axed in 2019.
The long-running front-wheel drive people mover was indirectly replaced by the rear-wheel drive, HiAce-derived Granvia.
The Granvia is considerably larger than the Tarago, measuring 5300mm long and 1970mm wide on a 3210mm wheelbase – up 505mm, 170mm and 260mm, respectively.
But while the Tarago and its Japanese-market Estima sibling are dead, Toyota has a new generation of Alphard and Vellfire in Japan that – unlike the North American-market Sienna – are built in right-hand drive.
Additionally, the Alphard and Vellfire – closely related to the Lexus LM recently launched in Australia – are offered with hybrid power, unlike the diesel-only Granvia.
Underpinning the fourth-generation Toyota Alphard and Vellfire is the TNGA-K unibody architecture, which underpins a wide range of vehicles including the Toyota Camry, Kluger (Highlander) and RAV4, as well as the Lexus ES, NX and RX.
That means both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions are available in Japan, along with a range of four-cylinder powertrains comprising 2.5-litre petrol, 2.5-litre hybrid and 2.4-litre turbocharged hybrid options, depending on the variant.
Only the Vellfire offers the turbo-hybrid powertrain, befitting its sportier positioning.
Toyota has also confirmed it plans to offer plug-in hybrid versions of the Alphard/Vellfire in future.
New features in the duo include a new ‘Super-Long Overhead Console’ through the centre of the ceiling, which houses various things like air-conditioning vents, lighting and assorted switchgear.
Previously, these were located along both sides of the ceiling – Toyota claims this improves “convenience and operability”, and also allows occupants in any seat to open windows and adjust lighting on the opposite side of the vehicle’s interior.
Toyota has also focused on improved accessibility, with the Alphard and Vellfire becoming the first models in the brand’s line-up to feature ‘Universal Steps’ on both sides of the vehicle, which the company says makes it easier for small children and the elderly to enter and exit the cabin.
The steps emerge approximately 220mm above ground level when the doors are open, which lowers the height of the first step for passengers entering and exiting the vehicle. Long grip handles are located on the C-pillars for added convenience.
While the Alphard is primarily produced for the Japanese market, it has also been sold in various other Asian markets like China, as well as Russia and the Middle East.