Motoring

The culture of cars

Naomi Ishii. PHOTO: THULASI KAKKAT  

Toyota has been in the Indian automobile market for 16 years, and progress has been slow but steady, with models like the Innova and the Fortuner leading their segments and the iconic Corolla getting a refresh last year. Now the company has taken the initiative to start driving schools at some of its dealerships to contribute to what the M.D of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd., Naomi Ishii, calls the ‘culture of the car’. On the sidelines of the inauguration of their first driving school at the Nippon Toyota dealership in Nettoor, he took some time to talk to The Hindu MetroPlus about the Indian automobile market and Toyota’s plans for it. Excerpts from an interview:

What prompted Toyota to start driving schools?

India has many driving schools but they are set up to provide students with licenses. Our focus is on creating the safest cars and training the safest drivers. I am interested in our reason for being in the Indian market, and it is not just to sell vehicles but to promote the culture of cars. In India, 1.4 lakh people die in road accidents a year, compared to around 4,500 in Japan. That’s the idea behind starting these driving schools, and by 2020, we aim to have 50 such schools set up at dealerships across the country.

When you took charge in India, you mentioned your focus was on the existing product range. What has your India stint been like?

Compared to other countries, India has the potential to take the lead in the global automotive market. There are many capable suppliers in the country who have it in them to go global. As for us, in India we are trying to provide the best experience for customers, not just the best cars. I want to focus on making more customers part of the Toyota family and provide them with exceptional value.

Toyota is said to be working on a common platform for its vehicles like Volkswagen’s new MQB platform. Any updates?

Yes, the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is very much in the pipeline and cars using the architecture will be in the market very soon.

There have been some reports of the Vios sedan being seen testing in India. Can you confirm if it will be making its way to dealerships in India?

(Laughs) We will have new products, but I cannot confirm anything at this point. We just had an overhaul of the Corolla Altis last year, and it is being seen as a good solution as an executive sedan, at the moment we are grateful for that appreciation.

Toyota was one of the first companies to use hybrid technology, and hybrids are becoming popular across the world. Are you planning on bringing in more hybrid vehicles to India?

Definitely, right now the Camry hybrid is already in India, but due to the segment it is in, the numbers are not big, but we are getting good customer reactions on the technology. We want to increase the numbers step by step. And in the future, we want to cascade the technology down to the affordable price range, but it takes time because it costs a lot and we have to charge a high premium. We are working hard to increase the cost effectiveness, as India is a very price conscious market. However, hybrid Camry sales are going up so that is a good sign.

What are the company’s plans for the next few years?

Right now we’re working hard on enhancing operational power in the time between new models. We have won some awards in sales and dealer satisfaction, but I also want to win awards for customer satisfaction. The focus is on optimising things and working as a unit with dealers, because they are the link between customers and us, the manufacturers. Safety is important to us, and so we have taken the initiative and standardised dual airbags on all our cars across the range. We will also be focusing on the driving school pro-gramme, because we do not want to create halfway drivers. My dream is that, from 2020 onwards, when people see Toyotas on the road, they should be reassured that these are safe cars driven by safe drivers.


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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 2:37:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Motoring/naomi-ishii-interview/article7032023.ece

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