Toyota already has several successful independent brands – the Prius at a lower price for younger buyers and the Lexus at a higher price for older, luxury car buyers. Now, Toyota is considering making the hybrid Prius an independent brand complete with new models. A smaller Prius and larger Prius are both being considered for the new brand lineup.
According to James E. Lentz III, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, the Prius independent brand strategy comes directly from consumer demand and market conditions. In short, consumers want more fuel efficient car choices in the United States, and the Prius is the most popular hybrid car in the U.S. It makes sense to extend the line and make Prius its own brand.
Unlike Lexus vehicles that are sold in separate dealerships from other Toyota brands, the Prius would likely sit in the same dealerships as Toyota and Scion branded vehicles. Again, this makes sense since it will be easier to try to move customers from one brand to another within the same dealership (e.g., switch from Toyota to Prius, move up from Scion to Toyota or Prius, etc.). According to the New York Times blog, Green Inc, Toyota is already working on developing a Prius logo.
While other car manufacturers struggle to keep up with Toyota, the market leader is listening to consumers, looking ahead to predict future market conditions, and modifying its overall branding strategy to meet those demands. It’s a perfect example of trying to be proactive rather than reactionary. Think of it this way, Chevrolet doesn’t expect the Chevy Volt (its version of a hybrid) to be available in the United States until late 2010 or 2011. Toyota and Prius will be on to bigger and better things by then.
What can we learn from this? Don’t try to create a product or brand then force feed it to consumers. Instead, listen to consumer demand, be knowledgeable of market conditions, look into the future and embrace the changes it brings, then develop products and brands that proactively leverage those learnings. It’s an obvious lesson but one that corporations (who are famous for getting in their own way) can forget. Be the Toyota of your market.
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