Toyota Australia could easily have charged a lot more for the sold-out GR Yaris than the $39,950 it did at launch, but to this day says it has no regrets – even if we strongly suspect each of those early cars were sold either at a loss, or with a super-skinny margin.
Why? Because the company feels like it was able to cultivate a new generation of car-mad enthusiasts (the plethora of GR forums attests to this) and considers the lack of margin a different sort of marketing.
Basically, the company took the money it would have dropped on big-budget ads for the pocket rocket, and instead used it to help cut the sticker price and thereby secure a legion of grateful brand ambassadors.
Despite jacking up the price after the first allocation to $44,950 (and more for the Rallye), the company has sold about 2100, and has had to place orders on pause for more than a year as it plays catch-up because production slots are so limited.
Suffice to say, it would have sold out of its scarce allocation even if it charged way more than it did, and if it had done that, could have made a much tidier sum.
“Would not change a thing,” insisted Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley last week.
“It put GR [branding] on the map… we needed to make a statement about GR in Australia and essentially what we did was rather than using multimedia to make that statement… we used advocates.
“We had people telling people about the car. So you turn your customers into brand ambassadors. We had cars on the road.”
While it’s our strong suspicion Toyota went as far as selling the first batch of GR Yaris’ at a loss, Mr Hanley played a figurative straight bat to that thorny question.
“Well I’m not going to go there, but I’d rather say they were sold with an investment in the GR brand,” he said, before adding a pretty good hint if you read between the lines.
“I’m not going to discuss profit margins. Let me just say the whole GR Yaris strategy was an investment in the GR brand. So no, it wasn’t a loss when you look at the totality of what it achieved for us.
“… We invested the money back into the people that wanted these cars and it worked a treat for us. So would I change it? Not a thing.”
Unfortunately, don’t expect a Toyota to enact a similar ploy with the equally wild GR Corolla that launches in the first quarter of 2023, since the GR brand now has far better market recognition – which was precisely the point.
“Different circumstances, different timing now, because we made a statement with GR Yaris. The GR brand’s now launched,” Mr Hanley said.
“However, having said that… we truly want these cars to be achievable. We want the enthusiast. We want these cars in the hands of the people that want to love driving Toyota performance cars.”
This is a dig at speculators or scalpers who’ve started buying heavily in demand cars and flipping them at an exorbitant markup, something Mr Hanley decried this week while calling on some form of intervention if legally possible.