In a take of putting the cart before the proverbial horse, Toyota announced pricing for the all-new 2012 Yaris today-but without any firm information about the car itself. No pictures (the Yaris seen above is the UK model), no specs-just pricing. Here is what we know for sure about the new Yaris-it will continue to be available as a three or five door hatchback, but the four door sedan has vanished. Buyers will have a choice between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Three trim levels will be offered: base L, LE, and SE, which promises an ‘enhanced suspension’.Ã‚Â Pricing for the 2012 Yaris starts at $14,115USD for a three door L with a manual, maxing out at $17,200 for a five door SE with automatic. Production will start at the end of this month.
What shocks me more than anything is how Toyota’s Public Relations are handling the release of the car. This price announcement is the first official mention from Toyota USA that a new Yaris was on its way, and to just show a spreadsheet with pricing and little else is utterly bewildering. The Garage was at the 2011 New York Auto Show, which would have been a prime opportunity to show the car in front of an assembled global press core. Nissan was there with its new 2012 Versa, but Toyota kept quiet.
The silence about the new Yaris makes even less sense when you consider Toyota’s position in the subcompact market. For as huge as Toyota is, this is a segment where Toyota is seriously struggling for marketshare in the US. Competing against cars like the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Chevy Aveo, the Yaris trails them all. Nissan has sold four Versas for each Yaris sold here this year so far. Taking that into consideration, one would assume Toyota would be beating us auto journos over the head trying to get us to create some hype around this car, but just the opposite is happening.
Given the success of Toyota, it is almost hard to believe the company has such a hard time selling anything smaller than a Corolla here, especially since the subcompact car market is growing. Part of the problem is perception. Toyota is viewed by many as an older person’s brand, and that hurts when you are selling a car like the Yaris, which is typically a first time buyer. Toyota recognized that, and invented Scion as a youth oriented brand, but sales of the xB four door box and xD five door hatch pale in comparison of the Yaris. So you would think Toyota would be shouting from the rooftops about its new car, but the silence is coming off as indifference about this important market.
Is Toyota USA scared of taking away the hype from the Scion iQ? I would hope not. The iQ is a funky urban dweller, while the Yaris offers far more versatility and practicality. Is it as interesting? No, but with the Yaris, Toyota does not seek a niche market. the iQ will get the press because it’s so unique, but the money for Toyota is in the Yaris. This is not a class of car Toyota can afford to be saddled with “also ran” status as they have been. In light of devastating earthquakes and recalls, for Heaven’s sake Toyota, it’s ok to brag about your newest car.