Toyota Australia says it will do what it can to make sure the small number of GR Corolla hot hatches that arrive in 2023 will go into the hands of enthusiasts, rather than speculators out to turn a quick buck.
But how it will action this within the framework of its franchise dealer model remains unclear, with a Supra-style online ballot looking unlikely and centralised online sales also off the agenda.
Set to launch in the first quarter of 2023, Toyota Australia will receive only 500 units for the first year’s allocation of its 220kW, manual-only, all-wheel drive Corolla, to divvy up among its national dealers.
It’s clear this number is well below the volume required to meet voracious demand.
“Competition for the car within the Toyota world is enthusiastic to say the least,” said Toyota Australia vice-president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley.
“This is not a limited-edition car though, it’s just all we can get in the first year… Now what we have got to do is manage that 500 very carefully.”
Asked if he was concerned that such limited supply would simply rub fans the wrong way by leaving too many without a car from the first batches, Mr Hanley said: “we’ll only upset people if we don’t tell them upfront exactly the circumstances of the order”.
“The dealerships know right now that they’re going to get a finite number,” he said, suggesting Toyota would like to work with its franchisees to ensure true-blue enthusiasts get priority.
“… We want to make sure that these cars get in the hands of true enthusiasts, the people that want to keep these cars, that want to drive these cars.
“So we are looking at different ways within the legalities of Australian Consumer and Competition law that may enable us to ensure that these get in the right hands,” he said.
When quizzed on whether Toyota could direct staff at its franchise dealers away from buying a GR Corolla for themselves, Mr Hanley stopped short. Furthermore, there will not be any Toyota HQ employees ticking off each customer, or doing any vetting of their intentions, he added.
“In terms of our dealer network, of course we have dealer staff that are enthusiasts, and of course we don’t want to discount those opportunities,” Mr Hanley said.
“But we will qualify everyone to be enthusiasts… and we want to discourage any sort of reselling [or] short cycling… We’ll certainly be asking our dealers to qualify each customer as being a person who wants this car for the right reasons,” he added.
“Now we have to look at that process within the legalities of the Australian consumer law and competition law, but we really want this car to get to the right people.”
None of these responses really make it clear what Toyota Australia has up its sleeve, aside from a distaste for opportunistic resellers.
Speculators (kind of like automotive scalpers) have thrived in a car market where shortages and all-time high demand have conspired to drive wait times into multiple years – allowing them to prey on people miles back in the queue.
As detailed last week, Toyota Australia has become frustrated at buyers using shortages to cash in at the expense of genuine buyers, but it’s still working out what levers it can pull.
“We think it’s deeply important that we take a leadership position on this particularly now. We’ve spent decades building trust around our brand, and it’s quite disturbing to think that we have a few that are short-cycling our cars to make money,” Mr Hanley opined.
“I think we need to protect, as best we can, our customers from those types of behaviours… I want it changed. I want this situation changed where customers are paying a fair and reasonable price based on the manufacturer’s retail price position.”
Mr Hanley was not ready to say if there’d be one GR Corolla variant or several at launch. In the more important US market – which does not have the GR Yaris – there are GR Corolla Core, Circuit and Morizo grades for buyers to choose from.
The big brother to the similarly bonkers GR Yaris (which has chalked up 2000-plus sales and been off sale for more than a year as Toyota works to clear its backlog) runs a version of the same turbocharged three-cylinder engine, manual gearbox and variable AWD.
As such the GR Corolla is a closer competitor to the incoming new Honda Civic Type-R and the familiar Hyundai i30 N – which offer manuals – rather than the more luxurious but also more compromising Volkswagen Golf R luxury-performance hatch.
Pricing is yet to be revealed, but interested customers can officially express their interest to dealers from September 15.