09 September 2010

Daihatsu In Retreat

Daihatsu is a Japanese brand owned by Toyota that makes small cars and trucks. This makes them very popular in Asia but not so much elsewhere. In fact, outside its home continent Asia, they are either slumping on sales charts or leaving markets altogether. The marque pulled out of Australia a few years ago and it has just exited the UK. Sales in many other markets is in free fall. Why? I can think of four reasons.

Firstly, their range of exclusively small cars limits their appeal in many countries. Second, small cars cost nearly as much to make as big cars and that end of the market is very price conscious. Therefore a range of just small cars isn't going to be very profitable for an importer. Thirdly, they are not dynamically exciting. In Europe especially, this is a deal breaker. Finally, the more realistically priced Yen means they are not the value car they were when Japan kept its currency very much undervalued.

I've owned one from new for some years now and the car I have is very reliable and practical. However, even in New Zealand, sales of Daihatsus have fallen from hundreds per month, to 20-30. That despite their being sold through the country's largest dealer network, Toyota.

Daihatsu may eventually become simply an Asian brand. Parent company Toyota's disinterest in expanding the range of vehicles to suit international taste is surprising and baffling. The Japanese have been good at that in the past but it seems German brands are now setting the pace in plugging every market niche.

The bottom line: A brand that had potential but too narrowly focused to have true international appeal.

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