Why Toyota Etios Liva has got a lukewarm launch response

Toyota Etios Liva, which was launched on June 27th, has notched up 4,000 bookings according to a company press release. How does this stack up against other launches, and what are the reasons for it?

Considering the car addresses a segment that’s nearly 40 percent (or 1 million cars annually), the numbers suggest a rather indifferent early response to Toyota’s cheapest offering.

Its rival Maruti Suzuki Swift sells 12,000 cars a month while Hyundai i20 and Ford Figo clock an average of 7,000 and 6,000 car sales, respectively. Etios Liva, despite being a new car, failed to get close to the top three—its 4,000 bookings took four weeks since launch.

Recently successful launches have clocked more impressive booking numbers initially. Liva’s sibling Toyota Etios sedan had notched up bookings of 12,000 within 7 days of launch. Hyundai’s new Fluidic Verna managed actual sales of over 4,000 units in its first month of launch despite being a more expensive car addressing a smaller segment.

Why Toyota Etios Liva has got a lukewarm launch response
Photo: The Toyota Etios Liva has got only 4,000 bookings in the 4 weeks since launch

What could be the reason behind Liva not garnering a bigger chunk of sales?

One, Toyota has said that they don’t have the capacity to play the market share game. It is targeting to sell only 20,000 Liva’s by year-end and if the bookings are any indication, then it should meet the targets comfortably.

But production constraint was there with Etios sedan too. And that didn’t stop the bookings from piling on. While Liva has great space, it just might not have enough ammunition to take the fight to market leader or even the number two or three. Watch our video review of the Liva here.

What Liva lacks

Diesel engine: Lack of diesel engine puts Liva at a serious disadvantage. Seventy percent of Figos sold are diesels. Both Hyundai and Maruti have said that over 50 percent of sales are coming from diesel variants. Toyota has been non-committal about if and when it will bring diesel.

Features: Figo is cheap and loaded. I20 is not cheap but loaded. Swift is reasonably well stocked with features—and the new one should be even better—and it’s a Maruti. But Toyota has skimped severely on features. The base J model although priced attractively at Rs. 3.99 lakh, does not even get a power steering. Ford Figo Duratec Petrol EXI which costs Rs 4.06 lakh comes with power steering, power windows and a music system. Liva G with power steering and power windows costs Rs 4.59 lakh. At this price you can get a Figo diesel that too has both. Or you could get Maruti Swift VXI that has everything that Liva has plus ABS/EBD as well as fog lamps for a slightly higher Rs. 4.77 lakh.

Other factors

Fit and finish: While the exterior is fine, the interior look quite cheap for the segment. That has led to some question-marks about how far Toyota has gone in cost-cutting and how it might impact quality.

Handling and ride: Liva is a bit sluggish as it’s optimized heavily for fuel efficiency. Also, the noise levels inside the cabin are a bit on the higher side for the segment.

All of the above have combined to mute the buzz that you might expect to get generated when Toyota launches an entirely new car built exclusively for Indian market.

Conclusion: Toyota has bet heavily on space and mileage with Liva. The trouble with that is that Figo and i20 also offer good space. And no matter what magic you do with mileage, a petrol engine would always struggle to compete with diesel, particularly given the wide fuel price differential.

What do you think? Is it early days, and the Liva will pick up in the months to come?