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Toyota resets the retail experience

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Words: Kyle Cassidy
29 Mar 2018

Toyota NZ is about to revolutionise the way you buy a new car in NZ with the launch of its Drive Happy Project.

It will turn the traditional car purchasing process on its head here with the introduction of no haggle pricing and the transformation of dealerships into stores. These will be staffed by product experts driven by customer satisfaction rather than salespeople chasing commissions. On top of that, Toyota will offer flexible test drive periods and even a seven day money back offer. This new approach to buying a vehicle is about getting rid of the ‘bothers’ faced by punters during the purchasing process and Toyota says this will save customers time and money, along with giving them a greater choice of vehicles, especially for those in the regions. It’s a customer-centric approach designed to make the process easier and pricing more transparent.

The project has been some ten years in the making, is a world leading initiative and is the result of extensive research carried out in New Zealand around the buying process. Toyota says the most common concern for buyers is around haggling over the price and so the new structure will see Toyota offer the same transparent pricing in all its stores, nationwide. Toyota will realign its pricing to reflect this new strategy and RRPs will be replaced by the Toyota Driveaway Price, which will be quite a bit lower than the current RRPs (closer to the average current transactional pricing) and will include all on road costs including a full tank of fuel, floor mats and 1000kms of RUCs for diesel vehicles. It marks the end of advertised specials and killer Fieldays deals.

Toyota’s new pricing will be revealed at the start of April.

With most people researching their new vehicles online prior to heading to the dealership, Toyota will be upgrading its website to allow greater configuration of its models so customers can have the best idea as to just which model, spec, colour and possible accessories they want.

Dealerships, sorry we mean stores, will no longer carry stock, rather the carpark will be full of demonstrators to enable the customer to try the exact car they want. Toyota says this will eliminate the pressures some buyers feel to accept a car they don’t really want, be it the wrong colour, or spec, as the dealer puts the acid on them to move their stock. The Drive Happy Project will see cars stockpiled around the country in three main hubs and the car fitting the customer’s exacting requirements will be dispatched from either Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. This gives customers the widest possible section of vehicles and Toyota says the delivery time will be two days.

It’s all about removing the hard sell from the experience. Well actually it’s about removing commission based sales staff from the process altogether. Toyota says its research found people wanted product specialists rather than sales people focused on landing a commission. Staff are therefore being retrained as Vehicle Consultants and Product Experts and the focus is now on offering a great customer experience. Tthese staff will be remunerated based on creating happy Toyota customers, measured by customer satisfaction surveys.

Another new initiative is to do away with the short test drive, or stress drive as they are known, with flexible evaluation options available including 24 hour loans. And to give a certain guarantee around providing the best buying process Toyota will offer a seven day, money back option, provided a few conditions are met.

And rounding out the ownership experience, Toyota is introducing capped price servicing so buyers will know exactly how much each service will cost over the first four years/60,000km of ownership and this package includes four years of AA Roadside Assistance and four years of WOF inspections.

Toyota’s new strategy is sure to make waves in the market here and monitored closely further afield as this is unlike any car sales structure offered anywhere in the world. Although Honda NZ have had a transparent pricing structure for many years, Toyota’s new project takes it a few steps further. And given Toyota has been the number one brand here for the past 30 years, with 20 per cent of the market, it carries a bit more weight. While Honda has a no discount for fleets policy, half of Toyota’s business is direct, and so they are open about the fact big fleet buyers will get a better price. These fleets will be classified into a series of purchasing tiers depending on how many they are going to buy and each of these tiers will have its own price. This won't be transparent to the average private buyer, though with Toyota’s enviable residual values, it’s unlikely to be of any real consequence.

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