Pakistan introduced its first-ever Auto Policy in 2016, the aim of which was to break the monopoly of 3 Japanese automakers in the market, generate healthy competition between players, shorten the delivery period, eliminate own/ premium, increase localization, bring down car prices and improve the quality of products offered to the customers.
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Various automakers stepped into the business as a result of Auto Policy 2016-21, however, the majority of newcomers remain focused on offering premium-priced products targeted towards those with strong purchase power while never trying to compete against the existing players by launching a product for volume buyers.
These automakers don’t find it right to introduce products that target the mass market buyers, perhaps from a business point of view, profit margins on smaller and medium-sized hatchbacks & sedans are thin and require more effort to compete. However like they say since the rich are becoming richer, most of the products that have been introduced so far as well as those currently in the pipeline are offered for those with deep pockets. In most cases, these expensive 4-wheelers actually cost more than a residential property.
The only ‘new’ options among mass-market sedans & hatchbacks include the Kia Picanto which is a globally discontinued generation model, the recently introduced Changan Alsvin sedan, and perhaps the Proton Saga, the deliveries of which are yet to commence. For other smaller cars, there are United Bravo and Prince Pearl, both based on 35+ years old 2nd gen Suzuki Alto (Mehran) platform having the same engine & transmission but severely suffering from lack of production volume and thus are available in extremely limited numbers. The same is the case with 1000cc United Alpha which is a re-badged first-gen Chery QQ from 15 years ago but lacks production volume and hence is of no real threat to any Suzuki or even Kia Picanto for that matter despite bearing a lower price tag.
Although people have started to get flavors in the sedan segment in form of Toyota Yaris which was introduced last year, the Changan Alsvin, Proton Saga as well as the 6th gen Honda City, however, the hatchback segment continues to be dominated by Suzuki with consumers having literally no other mass-produced option to go for. People often blame Chinese automakers for not introducing small hatchbacks but realistically speaking automakers in China stopped manufacturing small cars with gasoline engines long ago, as they are now purely focused on developing electric vehicles (EVs). So expecting new small Chinese hatchbacks like Chery QQ that we embraced back in 2006/07 is almost impossible today.
They say it’s almost hard for any automaker, be it European, Korean, or Chinese, to beat Suzuki in the small car segment. However, in current circumstances, the only automaker which can compete with Suzuki in the small car segment is none other than Daihatsu, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota.
Daihatsu is the oldest Japanese car manufacturer, mostly known for its range of small cars and off-road vehicles. Although founded in 1951, Daihatsu has roots that trace back as far as 1907. Toyota acquired a controlling interest of 51% in Daihatsu in 1988, bringing the company under its umbrella. But in 2016 it purchased Daihatsu’s remaining assets, thus making Daihatsu a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation. In its home market in Japan, Daihatsu gives cut-throat competition to Suzuki which is best known for producing small cars. As of 2019 (before the pandemic), Suzuki held a 30% market share in the small (kei) car segment in Japan whereas Daihatsu had 32% of the same.
Indus Motor Company (IMC) has previously introduced various Daihatsu cars in Pakistan including the highly successful 800cc Cuore hatchback and the Terios 7-seat SUV. So with an array of quality small cars in Daihatsu’s arsenal, we can always expect these cars to do exceptionally well in our market considering the trusted Japanese standards, the ease of maintenance, the success rate among used JDMs, and credible brand image of Daihatsu cars in Pakistan since the 1980s.
There are a lot of cars that IMC can introduce in Pakistan under’s Daihatsu’s umbrella. Such as the new Daihatsu Rocky which can also gain tax benefits if introduced in Pakistan thanks to its 1000cc turbo engine. Toyota also has its own version of the Rocky called Raize, which is aesthetically different but technically the same vehicle under the skin.
Then the 660cc Mira can be an ideal alternative to the Suzuki Alto which is currently the highest-selling car in Pakistan. However unlike Alto which has rather compromising looks, the Daihatsu Mira is a much more aesthetically pleasing vehicle to look at, and considering its performance and fan base in the used car market can be a highly successful vehicle in Pakistan. Plus, IMC can also resurrect the Cuore nameplate to market the new 660cc Mira here, just as Suzuki did with Celerio by naming it Cultus.
Then there is the 1000cc Daihatsu Ayla hatchback which is a sister product of Toyota Agya and does well in markets where it’s available either as Ayla or Agya. Plus the 1.0L Daihatsu Boon which is a sister product of Toyota Passo can give the likes of Suzuki Cultus and Kia Picanto a run for their money. Furthermore, the 1.3L Daihatsu Sirion hatchback can be considered a worthy alternative to the likes of Suzuki Swift and the upcoming MG3 hatchback.
IMC sells the rather expensive Toyota Avanza as a CBU import, but its sister product- the Daihatsu Xenia if assembled locally can be an ideal alternative to Honda BR-V, the only locally assembled 7-seat MPV in our market. Then there is the Atrai van, which comes in 660cc as well as 1000cc engine options and with proven reliability among used imports can be a perfect replacement for Suzuki Bolan or the likes of Changan Karvaan or FAW X-PV in our market.
Daihatsu TAFT, which is a 660cc crossover SUV having an impressive chunkier design language can be preferred by those who loved to own an everyday-cum-recreational vehicle, pretty much the sort of Suzuki Hustler. Things just don’t end here as the 660cc Daihatsu Copen 2-door roadster can be offered as CBU for enthusiasts.
Daihatsu also has a sedan called Bezza, the development of which was led by Perodua, the Malaysian automaker which is 20% owned by Daihatsu. Bezza comes with a choice of 1.0L and 1.3L engine options and was also imported by IMC back in 2018 reportedly for trials & tests. However, the launch is yet to become a reality.
Daihatsu has a huge portfolio of quality small cars that have all the potential to go successful in our market. Unfortunately, the way things go here, the companies prefer cartelization over the competition. If the above-mentioned Daihatsu cars are introduced in Pakistan, there is a huge chance of them sweeping away the market, however since Suzuki has no presence in sedans (or 1300cc & above segment), Toyota as well as Honda have always remained reluctant to tap the small car segment in Pakistan.
What is your take regarding the introduction of Daihatsu cars in Pakistan? Let us know your comments.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com