Toyota: Winning the hearts of New Zealanders
Neeraj Lala, who took the helm as the CEO of Toyota New Zealand last year amid the uncertainty of a global pandemic, has set forth the company’s new mission of winning the hearts of New Zealanders over the next decade.
“Toyota’s global vision to ‘mass produce happiness’ is where our drive to win the hearts of New Zealanders comes from,” explained Lala. “We intend to do this by delivering an exceptional customer experience and mobility for all.”
Toyota’s journey in New Zealand began in 1966 when TMC awarded a franchise to private owners Cable Price and Wright Stephens. It assembled a variety of “completely knocked down” vehicles in Thames and Christchurch all the way through to the late ’90s.
Local assembly ceased in New Zealand after the government lifted tariffs on imported vehicles.
“When the markets started to open up, TMC took full ownership of Toyota New Zealand and our innovation really accelerated,” Lala shared.
Major developments included the introduction of Toyota Financial Services and Lexus, the launch of the iconic “Welcome to our world” campaign and the establishment of the National Customer Centre.
Toyota is the only car brand in New Zealand that has a national center dedicated to its customers.
“With the introduction of independently owned Toyota stores and Toyota’s continuous innovation, we became a most loved brand, jumping from sixth in the market to No. 1, a position we’ve held on to for a record 33 consecutive years,” he added.
As the economy opened, used car imports started flooding the market and for many years New Zealand was the No. 1 export destination for used cars from Japan.
Toyota New Zealand made the strategic decision to refurbish the used Toyotas entering the country and market them under its Signature Class brand, making it the first Toyota distributor in the world to have a full used-vehicle division.
“We always have our customers at the center of everything we do and we felt that we needed to look after those that have purchased these used Toyota vehicles even if we did not bring them in,” explained Lala.
Connecting to Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s concept of waku doki (heart-pumping excitement), the Toyota Racing Series was introduced in New Zealand. Motorsport was used to inject excitement into Toyota, turbo-charging the brand even further in the country.
In recent years, Toyota New Zealand launched the customer- centric Drive Happy Project to remove the pain points associated with buying a brand-new car and to make the process as efficient and as enjoyable as possible. Upfront, haggle-free prices, “no hard sell, just happy customers” and flexible test drive options are just some of the ways they do this.
Neeraj Lala shares in President Toyoda’s passion and enthusiasm to transition from being a traditional automaker known for cars, trucks and vans to a mobility company focused on exciting future technologies. “We are in a very good place to leverage off the strengths of our parent company. I look forward to leading Toyota New Zealand through these exciting times and to winning the hearts of New Zealanders.”