Sunday, December 02, 2007

Toyota Qualis : RIP (2000-2004)

Brand : Qualis
Company : Toyota
Agency : Dentsu

Brand Analysis Count : 294

Qualis is a puzzling brand for most of the marketing students. The simple reason is that Toyota stopped the production of this brand when Qualis was having its highest market share in Indian market.
Qualis was launched in India in 2000. At that time itself the brand caught headlines because it was the first product of Toyota in India. Qualis was atleast two generation old when it was launched in India. Qualis is Indian version of Toyota Kijang from Indonesia. There were cases of globally dated models introduced in India biting the bullet like Peaugot 306 . So there were skeptics who forcasted doom for Qualis.
Those predicted failure for Qualis had real logical reasons. First, Qualis was a dated model. Indian consumers are aware of global trends and may not accept an outdated model . Second was the design of Qualis. Qualis was not good looking. Hence the chances of the brand's acceptance was perceived to be minimal .
But Qualis proved everyone wrong. For Toyota, Qualis was a brand launched to test the market. The brand was launched after careful market research and several consumer insights gave the company confidence to launch this product in the market.
Qualis was a utility vehicle. The brand was competing with the Tata Sumo which was the market leader in the nascent MPV segment.Sumo was a work horse and the product had its problem regarding lack of refinement and brand image. But there was a need for a refined, high quality multi-purpose vehicle.
MPV's are used by businessman and self employed and those who would like to take the entire family around. Sumo was more of a commercial vehicle rather than a family one. Sensing this gap, Qualis was launched as a family MPV.
Qualis was launched with much fanfare and the launch also saw some iconic advertising. The brand was launched with " Touch and Try" campaign which encouraged the customers to test drive the car. The brand initially focused on Space and comfort as the main differentiator. The sales soared once positive word of mouth about the comfort of the car began to circulate. Infact Qualis redifined the MPV segment in India. From rugged product to a refined car, consumers were educated to new levels of comfort.
But things were not rosy for Qaulis . Rather than the intended consumers, this brand began to attract taxi and tour operators. Qualis was selling like hotcakes as taxis. From the initial 9% market share , Qualis dethroned Sumo and was the market leader with over 40% share.
The brand tried to bring back the individual consumer through a series of campaigns and variants. The brand had the following taglines " Touch the perfection " and " Live the Qualis Life" . New luxurious variants were launched to attract businessman and individuals to buy this car. The TG for Qualis were businessman/self employed with an annual income between Rs 600,000- Rs 800,000 who travels atleast 40-50 Km per day. Qualis was known for Quality Durability and Reliability.
With MPV segment taking off, competition was getting hotter for Qualis. New launches from Chevrolet and Mahindra began hurting the market position of Qualis. More than Chevrolet, it was Scorpio that worried Toyota most. The company felt that the intended consumers ( individuals) were moving away from Qualis. Market research suggest that consumer needs are changing and Qualis did not fit into the consumer's schemes.
Toyota had the company policy that a model should have attained leadership position before phasing out. Qualis has attained its saturation point. So the company had the challenge of retaining the leadership position in the segment and also to expand the market. It wanted to get out of the " Taxi " tag. Another development was the famous Innovative International Multipurpose Vehicle Platform ( IMV) which was decided to be the base for all international products from Toyota.
In 2004, Toyota announced the phasing out of Qualis. Interestingly, the month where the phasing out was announced saw record sales for Qualis. Its difficult for a brand to succeed and even more difficult for a marketer to kill a successful brand. Qualis ' death was timely and paved way for a more successful Innova.
The natural question arises when a company decides to kill a brand is about the existing customers. For products which needs after sales support and spares, usually companies have a policy of supporting its phased out brand for over a decade. The existing customers may feel less worried if they are assured support by the company for a reasonable period.