FLEW down to Malaga for 1p plus taxes from my local airport, Leeds Bradford, to drive a pre-production Toyota Auris – pronounced ‘ow-riss’ and not ‘or-ace’, as I thought. This new C-sector car is built in the UK at Burnaston and at the Toyota plant in Turkey.
Toyota Europe has big plans for the Auris, both in retail and fleet. It expects significant growth in sales by 2010 and the president of Toyota has recently said that Toyota wants to be number one – not in volume, but in quality. However ambitious that might sound, it seems the firm might be on the way with the Auris.
The diesel versions outshone and outperformed the petrol-engined cars, which is good news for fleets.
The interior fit and finish was exceptionally good for a pre-production model and it’s significantly ahead of the Corolla it replaces, which never really hit it off with fleets.
So far this year, Toyota has only sold just over 6,000 Corollas in fleet, down a third on last year. Compare that with the Golf, which has done 33,000 in fleet in 2007, Astra at 69,000 and Focus at 78,000, and you get an idea of just how off the pace the Corolla is.
Even Civic, with limited availability and less than a full year of sales of the new one, has managed 11,000.
Sales expectations have not been disclosed for Auris, but a marked improvement over Corolla is the least it can expect. It goes on sale in the UK from February 4. Prices have not yet been officially announced but are likely to start from around £12,000.
FLEW to Rome to drive another all-new competitor, the Kia Cee’d. The name was originally meant to mean ‘Community Europe, European Design’ but Design has changed to Dream. The question is, is success just a dream for Kia with the Cee’d?
At CAP, our IT system is unable to insert the apostrophe between the e and the d and most systems will not allow this, so the car will be called Ceed in the fleet industry.
KIA is heading into a battle with other manufacturers already well established in this sector, and it knows how tough it is going to be.
No prices have yet been announced but Jean-Charles Lievens, senior vice-president, KIA Motors Europe, told me they expect to be around 5-7% more competitive than its closest competitors – Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla (soon to be Auris) and Volkswagen Golf.
In reality, there are many other manufacturers currently offering similar-sized cars at less money, and it is these that KIA should be aiming at. It is highly unusual to go on a new car launch and not be told the price – very odd.
A very small group from the UK, compared to other countries, were accompanied by Bob Austin, KIA UK’s head of corporate sales and remarketing, who told us that around 10,000 would come to the UK next year, 6,000 for retail and 4,000 destined for fleet, of which 3,000 will be sold through the new Fleet Dealer Programme.
KIA will sell 1,000 direct, mainly to rental companies. The Cee’d will make a great rental car.