Toyota is rebranding its light commercial vehicle operation ‘Toyota Professional’ as it bids to make a bigger impact in the sector with an expanded product line-up.
The manufacturer will launch its first light van early next year - the Proace City has been developed in collaboration with the PSA Group and is based on the same platform as the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo.
With its current line-up of the Proace medium van, which is also built on a PSA platform, Hilux pick-up and Land Cruiser Utility Commercial, which operates in the niche 4x4 segment, Toyota admits it is currently competing in less than 40% of the European LCV market and only commands a position of strength in the pick-up sector, with the Hilux.
Andrea Carlucci, Toyota Motor Europe’s (TME) director of product and marketing, said: “We need to be relevant to the consumer today and tomorrow.”
To this end the nascent brand is planning to enter the burgeoning electric van market, which Carlucci describes as “the new battlefield”.
Continuing its partnership with PSA, Toyota Professional will introduce BEV (battery electric vehicle) versions of the Proace and Proace City in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
“Our strategy is to be a leader in CO2 reduction in vans,” Carlucci added.
With its LCV range so heavily reliant on another manufacturer’s product, Toyota Professional says it will differentiate itself through the strength of the Toyota name and its customer service.
As UK LCV boss Gareth Matthews put it: “We’re Toyota, we look after you. The challenge is to get that message across.”
He claimed the five-year warranty offered with Toyota Professional products in the UK, compared to the three-year cover on PSA vans, would also stand it in good stead.
Commenting on the manufacturer’s new strategy and product offensive, Matt Harrison, executive vice president TME, said: “The expansion and electrification of TME’s LCV product range will be supported by new Toyota Professional branding. This highlights Toyota’s commitment to its growing number of LCV customers and includes a dedicated network to ensure we deliver the right customer experience.”
The rollout of Toyota Professional branding will include a new LCV section on the website and the establishment of LCV Centres in cities from 2020. The manufacturer says these will be developed from giving a number of Business Centres, of which there are already 63 in the UK, a higher LCV focus.
The sites will house an LCV specialist, a full product range display in a dedicated LCV area, the Toyota Plus used programme and access to conversions. They will aim to deliver express servicing with two technicians assigned to vans, offer courtesy vans and house lifts and bays for LCVs.
In the UK the centres will be expected to sell 100 to 120 LCVs a year.