Toyota targets growing consumer market in Africa

JOHANNESBURG Tue Apr 9, 2013 4:34am EDT

A visitor walking past cars is reflected on a Toyota car at the company's showroom in Tokyo February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A visitor walking past cars is reflected on a Toyota car at the company's showroom in Tokyo February 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) is increasing its focus on African consumers as private sector growth reduces its dependence on government business, its top executive on the continent said on Monday.

The Japanese automaker, which has a presence in all 54 African countries after entering South Sudan last year, expects the east and west African auto markets to grow by up to 5 percent this year, Toyota Africa CEO Johan van Zyl told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.

"In many countries now consumer marketing is becoming very important," he said, adding that in many African countries Toyota previously dealt almost exclusively with governments.

The world's top-selling automaker sold 237,000 vehicles on the continent last year, giving it a 14 percent market share.

But it faces growing competition from Chinese and Indian rivals like Chery Automobile CHERY.UL and Tata Motors (TAMO.NS), which arguably have more experience in building and marketing budget cars in emerging markets.

However, van Zyl said Toyota was also focused on affordable cars and its Etios brand, launched in India in 2010, is targeted at cost-conscious consumers.

The company is selling about 2,000 Etios cars a month in Africa, where consumers are concerned about quality and durability as well as cost, he added.

"People tend to think if you sell things to Africa, you can sell them inferior things. I think that will be the biggest mistake you can make," he said.

"The consumer in Africa is as much aware of quality than anybody else."

(Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits)

(Reporting by Tosin Sulaiman; editing by David Dolan)

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