International Motors, the UK independent importers with the Subaru and Isuzu franchises, took over the UK distribution and sales for Daihatsu vehicles in January 2000 and since that time they have struggled, with a lack of new models, to grow their annual sales much above 4,500 units each year.
However Paul Tunnicliffe, their recently appointed Managing Director, thinks the all new five-door Sirion supermini which goes on sale this month will enable them to reach an overall sales target of 6,000 units this year. These models coupled to the arrival of a new Terios range next year will get them to 10,000 units a year by 2008.
"We see our future growth driven by new models," said Tunnicliffe this week at the Geneva Motor Show where the new Sirion made its European debut. The new Sirion 1.0 S will be priced at £6,995 and the 1.3 S at £7,795. SE models range from £7,695 up to £9,195 for the automatic variant.
"We expect to sell around 3,000 of the new Sirion models this year which equates to 50 per cent of our total sales. This coupled to the run-out programme we have for the current Terios four wheel drive models, which we recently reduced by £2,000, should see us reach our target of 6,000 for this year" he added.
"The new Terios we are introducing next year is about half as big again as the current model and it comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine. We expect to sell 3,500 of these new models in 2006" said Tunnicliffe.
He added, "We have to grow our UK sales but not at any cost. Although the profit margins are slim on our cars we and our dealers are not in the business to loose money. Growing the UK sales volumes is linked to receiving new models and we have expanded our UK dealer network by 40 last year. We now have 125 throughout the UK and we think we should expand this figure still further, say to 140, for us to reach the 10,0000 units a years sales target in the future".
"Our customers are usually over 50 years of age, we call them ‘bright greys’ as they are typically the type of people who generally want the better things in life, they know value for money when they see it, they are slightly better off, they want quality sales and service and they want a dealership near to where they live. Retail customers tend to buy locally so having a good coverage of Daihatsu dealerships is important. In the main our customers are couples and they use their Daihatsu model as their main car although some are the ‘second car’ of course. We listen to our customers and the new Sirion models reflect their comments and input. For instance air conditioning is a priority for them, both Sirion models have it fitted as standard and they have ABS braking, radio and CD player, four electric windows, central locking and power steering".
Tunnicliffe added, "The advance order-take suggests that 60 per cent of customers are opting for the 1.3 S model but the final ratio may change. Both engines are very fuel-efficient and have the lowest levels of CO2 emissions making them cheap to run and with the lowest level of road tax. Retail customers in this sector are currently not attracted by diesel engines as the fuel economy offered by these latest petrol units, up to 64mpg, means that the extra cost of buying a diesel engined car plus the extra cost per litre on diesel fuel makes them unviable at typical average annual mileages. However next year it is likely we will add an advanced diesel engine to the range for those who want it".
"The cars substantially undercut the Ford Fiesta in price and due to their clever interior use of space and high equipment levels they compete in the next class up of superminis," said Tunnicliffe.
The new Sirion models have been designed and developed in conjunction with Daihatsu’s parent company; Toyota and they use the same floorpan and body architecture as the new Toyota Yaris. Toyota sells its own version of the Sirion in Japan.Published 4 March 2005