Lined up are Yaris Verso, MR2 Roadster and the electric/petrol hybrid Prius, boosted by TV advertising campaigns and allied to efforts to enhance the brand's image through greater face-to-face contact between potential customers and newly-recruited sales staff. Mark Hall, Toyota fleet general manager, said: 'Even after adjusting the figures, our performance is disappointing.
'The reasons are clear. The Starlet, which was our small car and a solid fleet proposition, particularly in Motability, was discontinued. Its replacement, the Yaris, has been exceptionally well received. But we cannot get enough of them and our sales in that sector were down 1,560 units.' The efforts given to sell the Yaris had also distracted attention from potentially important fleet cars like the Avensis.
Other problems have been caused by the 'low user-chooser awareness' of the lower-medium sector Corolla, combined with models like the Previa and RAV4 growing 'long-in-the-tooth'. Hall said: 'The market is also incredibly aggressive. We picked up some major accounts in 1999 like Tesco, Barclays Bank and Scottish Power, but walked away from many more deals because we aren't prepared to chase volumes with sizable discounts, but instead want to protect residuals.'