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The wait is over, Camry hits the road

New Delhi, Oct. 19: Toyoto Motor India has finally launched the Camry — the long-awaited executive sedan that it showcased at the Delhi Auto Expo in January.

The sedan, which is powered by a 2.4 litre 4-cylinder engine, will be priced at Rs 18.45 lakh (ex-showroom) for the top-end V3 variant and Rs 17.95 lakh for the cheaper V1 model.

Toyota will be importing the cars as completely built units (CBUs) unlike its principal rivals — Ford Mondeo and the Honda Accord. That explains why the Camry is being priced at least Rs 1 lakh more than the rival products.

Sachio Yamazaki, the managing director of Toyota Motor India, said they hoped to capture 20 to 25 per cent of the small but growing executive sedan market.

“Our target for annual sales is 1,000, and that means a market share of 20 to 25 per cent,” said Yamazaki.

Company officials said they expected to sell about 1,000 units of the model in the first year after paying import and sundry duties of about 120 per cent.

Toyota of Japan, which has a 99 per cent stake in the Bangalore-based joint venture with the Kirloskars, has no immediate plans to make or assemble the Camry — the largest selling car model in the US — in India.

The Camry is the second Toyota model that is being launched this year and comes after a surge in car sales in September, raising hopes in an industry that has been battered by stuttering demand.

At the Auto Expo in January, Toyota officials had indicated that they were planning to launch the Camry by the middle of the year, but after overall car sales plunged in the first half, the launch plans were put on hold.

Last month, the company launched the new Qualis GST, which was also showcased at the Auto Expo. There is growing speculation that the company, which entered the market with a multi-utility vehicle, will be launching another 1800 cc sedan — the Corolla — in the first quarter of 2003. The Corolla is Toyota’s best-selling model worldwide.

Toyota Motor India has decided to offer the latest sixth generation Camry model — an indication of the maturity of the customers in the country who will no longer settle for any tacky old generation model.

Toyota officials did not give longer term growth projections but said 350 to 400 cars were sold in the executive sedan segment in September, up from 250 in the same month a year ago.

Toyota entered India in January 2000 with its multi-purpose utility vehicle, Qualis, which has sold more than 69,000 units. Qualis has a 28 per cent share of the 120,000-strong annual Indian market for utility vehicles.

According to company sources the Indian unit started making monthly profits since June and aimed to erase all accumulated losses by 2005-06.

Toyota says it has so far put more than $ 190 million in its 50,000-units a year Indian plant on the outskirts of the southern city of Bangalore and is also investing Rs 360 crore in two export-oriented auto part units, which are scheduled to go on stream in 2004.

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