Wheels24's Charlen Raymond is attending the launch of the new Toyota Quest. Images of the new model are captured in the article below.
If you ask any automotive product person, which is the worst vehicle segment to do business in, the answer will be compact sedans.
There was a time when the compact front-wheel-drive sedan was a car of destiny for most South Africans. Hatchbacks were student cars and for people without kids.
And SUVs were only bought by adventurers, who drive them around with recovery ladders and spades fastened to the roof racks.
Family motoring was defined by having wheels with a boot.
Much has changed in the last two decades and the market for compact sedans has collapsed.
Why do you think the Toyota Corolla Quest continues to do well in South Africa? Email us.
Crossovers are now the vehicle configuration of choice for young families and the classic sedan configuration, especially in its more affordable form, is seemingly motoring off into the sunset.
Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Where have all the affordable sedans gone?
To give you an idea of how much things have changed, Ford doesn’t even sell a sedan in South Africa anymore. Nor does Hyundai and the Korean brand established much of its initial following in the local market, with its original Accent sedan. Most of the brands which did a tidy trade in affordable front-wheel-drive cars with a boot, don’t bother marketing them in South Africa anymore.
It is only VW with its Polo sedan of Toyota’s Quest which remains as credible, and affordable, compact sedans. The company has managed to trade a massive business selling legacy Corolla models, a generation or two behind most of the model’s global distribution.
Locally-built and branded under the Quest name, these previous-generation Corollas have been hugely successful. In December, a traditionally weak sales month, Toyota traded 963 Quests. That means that Toyota managed to sell more of its ‘older’ tenth-generation Corolla in South Africa, than Mazda’s total monthly volume, across all models.
If all the marketing people tell us that there isn’t demand for affordable front-wheel-drive sedans, how does Toyota manage to sell so many? With Toyota launching its new Quest this week, which transitions to the eleventh-generation Corolla platform, it's legacy sedan business can become even stronger.Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Why the Quest makes sense
Many of the Quests are sold to business and government as fleet vehicles and in this regard, they are brilliant and much better than hatchback or crossover. The reason is simple: security.
With a metal boot, your laptops or samples are much safer, in a parked Quest, than any hatchback or crossover, with a glass window covering the cargo area. Inexperienced drivers find the controls forgiving and because Quest is a sedan, instead of a crossover, its lower centre of gravity means superior high-speed and cornering stability. And when you are a nervous or cautious driver, you want conservative and predictable vehicle feedback.
The Corolla’s inherent mechanical durability, proven in local conditions, is another aspect which lends Quest appeal, especially when the cost of ownership is calculated.
Toyota understands that beyond trend products (such as crossovers), there remains a real need for some of the more traditional vehicle types in South Africa. And where other brands have been unable to make their affordable sedan businesses survive, Corolla has lived a very successful double-life, as Quest.Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond