Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

What is the hottest model in 2023? There is only one answer: MPV (short for Multi-Purpose Vehicle).

In the past, MPVs were mainly used for business receptions and belonged to niche tracks, but since the beginning of this year, many car companies have launched MPV models, which has the meaning of stirring the blue ocean into the red ocean. At this year's Guangzhou Auto Show, the ideal MEGA and Xpeng X9 have become the "top stream". The booth was watched by many people, and the limelight was comparable to that of the new generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series.

In addition, several blockbuster models such as GAC Trumpchi E8, SAIC Maxus G70, JAC Ruifeng RF8, Volvo EM90, Denza D9 four-seater version and Buick Century Haute Couture are also competing for glory.

Coupled with the Wei brand Gaoshan, Zeekrypton 009, Jihu Koala and the new VOYAH Dreamer, which were just launched before the auto show, the excitement of the MPV market is overshadowing one wave after another. It is foreseeable that the MPV market is bound to usher in a big war in the future.

According to the data of the Passenger Association, after experiencing poor sales from 2017 to 2022, the MPV market finally stopped falling, and the sales volume from January to October this year increased by 17.6% year-on-year, of which the sales of self-owned brand MPVs increased by 22.1% year-on-year, which is the NO.1 in the sub-category and has become the biggest highlight of the auto market this year.

By comparison, the SUV market grew just 7.8 percent year-on-year in the first ten months of the year, while the sedan market fell 2.3 percent.

"City Circle" noticed that these new MPV players almost all have one thing in common when building up their marketing, that is, they have to compete with Toyota Alpha more or less, either directly or implicitly. A stormy siege is coming, who will be the terminator of Alpha?

Imported MPV "conspicuous package"

As Toyota's high-end luxury MPV model, Alpha is also known as the "Rolls-Royce of the MPV industry", and it is concentrated in the core areas of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and the underground parking lots of high-end office buildings.

Since the launch of the first generation model in 2002, Alpha has dominated the MPV market for 21 years. In 2008, after the second-generation Elfa first entered the Chinese mainland market, a car was hard to find, and even if you had money, you had to increase the price by hundreds of thousands to buy it. It is no exaggeration to say that the highest price increase of Alpha can reach 500,000 yuan, and the landing price is close to 2 million. Many consumers lamented that it is worthy of being the "nanny car" of celebrities and business owners.

Recently, "City Boundary" visited 4S stores and learned that the fourth-generation Alpha on sale still needs to increase the price by more than 100,000 to 200,000 yuan, and its brother model Alpha, because its popularity is smaller than that of Alpha, the price increase is also less, and the price increase for parallel imports is basically 100,000.

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

▲ (Source/City Boundary)

The tree is big and the name hurts. As the only original business vehicle with a price of more than one million, Alpha has been a thorn in the side of its peers over the years. And now, more and more domestic independent brands, even if the price is only more than 300,000, have to wrestle with Alpha.

For example, when Wei brand Gaoshan was released, the company's executives directly shouted, "Why does Alpha, which doesn't even have an ordinary car refrigerator, sell it for one million?" slogan.

The promotional point of the VOYAH Dreamer's "not losing to a million-level luxury MPV" almost pointed out the name of Alpha directly. The Denza D9 also said that it benchmarks the million-level MPV in terms of appearance, interior, space, chassis and driving, and is nicknamed "Tengerfa" on social media.

Not only MPV players, but even SUV models have to "step" on Alpha. Wenjie M7 played a "comfortable experience beyond luxury MPV" at the press conference, and the ideal L9 directly said that the total space of the second and third rows and the trunk of its own home, "even exceeds the Toyota Alpha".

Why do all friends want to kill Alpha's prestige?

If this question is thrown to people in the industry, countless voices will be heard saying "because Alpha is not worth the price at all".

According to Toyota's official website in Japan, the price of the fourth-generation Alpha is 5.4 million yen-8.72 million yen, or about 257,000-416,000 yuan. However, the official price in China is 899,000-909,000 yuan.

Even if Alpha sells imported (relevant tax) and high-end models in China, compared with overseas markets, this price difference is too large.

Taking BMW as an example, the starting price of the BMW i7 eDrive50 in Germany is 115,700 euros, or about 896,000 yuan, and the official guide price of the i7 eDrive50L in the domestic market is 949,000 yuan. The BMW 740i starts at $98,000 in the U.S., or about 697,000 yuan, and the official guide price of the 740Li in the domestic market starts at 1.069 million yuan.

Although the above models are different from those in China in terms of configuration details, the overall price difference is not as exaggerated as Alpha. In addition, Alpha has been in a state of price increase in the Chinese market for a long time, which has also angered many peers.

In the past few years, it is a common market for Alpha to increase its price by about 300,000 yuan, which is enough to buy another Alpha in Japan.

According to the data, from January to October this year, the cumulative sales of Alpha in China were about 15,000 units. Conservatively calculated according to the terminal price increase of 200,000 yuan per vehicle, this part alone can make dealers eat up about 3 billion yuan of profits.

If the price increase can match a good product, friends will not put too much beak, but everyone generally thinks that Alpha's product power is too pit.

"It can be seen from the selling price in Japan that the foundation of Alpha is not so high-end. The difference in price between high and low configuration is basically the difference between comfort and luxury configuration, and it has little to do with mechanical quality. If we consider the cost of labor and materials in Japan, if a product like this is produced in China, the price range should be around 300,000 yuan. Some people in the automotive industry said.

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

▲(2021 Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV)

In contrast, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are also million-level imported cars, although the price difference between domestic and foreign countries is relatively large, "but the product power is generally in line with the expectations of domestic consumers for million-level prices." Said a person in the industry.

In Anhui, Wang Lei, who runs a real estate company, told City Boundary that since he bought Alpha, he has done sound insulation and chassis enhancement for the whole vehicle. "It feels very floating at high speeds, and the chassis is not very comfortable except for the shock absorption. ”

"After the Alpha switched from the previous 3.5-liter V6 engine to a 2.5-liter hybrid, there are some places where it feels like it has regressed. Compared with many new domestic MPVs, Alpha has almost been compared in many places except for a bit of space advantage, but for me, it is true that I have not found a car that can directly replace it. A post-80s business owner said.

Big IP Cultivation Notes

Since there is a serious mismatch between product power and price, why are people willing to pay?

"There is no more suitable option in the high-end MPV market other than Alpha or Wilfa. Business banquets don't need to be received by Alpha, and the grade is lowered. Wang Lei said that even if buying a car can give the company tax deductions, this is only a small part of the reason, and fundamentally speaking, it is still a work need.

Wang Lei's circle of friends who drive executive-class sedans are Mercedes-Benz S-class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, most of the models are medium and high-end, and the prices are basically in the millions. "People in the business field really know how to watch the dishes under the car. If you look at the car you drive is not of high grade, you will think that your company is not strong enough, or you don't pay enough attention to him. ”

"Although I don't want to admit it, when we buy a car for business use in our circle, we really look at the social attributes brought by the price grade. Talking about 'cost performance' is not the product itself, but the recognition of the circle. The above-mentioned business owner said to the "city boundary".

"Because everyone recognizes the car, or the social status of the occupants. Just like I asked the driver to wait at the door of the office building, the time is relatively long, the security guard will be a lot more accommodating when he sees that you are an Alpha, and other cars will let you drive away quickly. This feeling is the same as driving a supercar, the security guard keeps you at the door, and the average car is bombarded behind. The business owner said.

Wang Lei also said that one of the benefits of Alpha is that it can "eat up and down". "If the other party is low-key and drives an Audi A6, then I won't feel overwhelmed when I drive a Toyota brand. If the other party drives a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, Alpha stops next to these cars, and they all know that they are of the same grade. ”

And compared with the million-level car, Alpha has a large space and a wider field of vision. "I usually go to golf with a few friends, but if I bring a lot of bags and belongings, it is difficult to fit in an S-class car. Wang Lei said.

In the final analysis: Alpha is a status symbol and a social business card for high-net-worth individuals, which cannot be lost.

So, how did this luxury car big IP develop?

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

▲ (Kyoto, Japan, Toyota Alpha Taxi)

In 2002, when the original Alpha was born, there was no concept of MPV in the car market.

Alpha's biggest rival at that time, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class, was more inclined to the commercial vehicle market, such as vans and semi-trucks, and incidentally created a passenger car, but it still used the load-bearing chassis on the truck, rather than the non-load-bearing type of the passenger car.

In other words, Mercedes-Benz used the chassis of a transport truck to build a car that carried people, which is definitely not as comfortable as the car made by Alpha with a sedan chassis, which makes people comfortable. To this day, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class still uses a commercial vehicle chassis.

The luxury brands BMW and Audi, for their own positioning, have no intention of building such cars at all. For a long time, other brands have also been using the foundation of commercial vehicles to transform MPVs, which have failed to pose a threat to Alpha.

Moreover, the exterior and interior design of Alpha completely get rid of the shadow of commercial vehicles, taking into account business and family styles, and the configuration is also on par with luxury cars. The seats are wide and soft, and the space and privacy reduce the dimensionality of the BBA sedan.

It can be said that the fundamental reason for the popularity of Alpha is that there are no competitors in the Asian market. Therefore, before the car entered Chinese mainland, Chinese consumers could often see it in Hong Kong films. At that time, Hong Kong's wealthy and celebrities recognized it very highly, and the frequency of Alpha's appearance was also like that of celebrities, which directly affected the rich in the mainland.

The word-of-mouth effect brought by "you buy, I buy, everyone buys" is huge, and Alpha has become the first choice of MPV recognized in the circle of dignitaries and nobles.

Who will be the "Alpha Terminator"?

The price of the latest Alpha in Hong Kong is similar to that in the mainland, with a price of HK$799,600-HK$1,099,600, or about RMB 726,000-998,000, but there are few cases of increased prices in Hong Kong.

The popularity of Alpha in China began in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, but this hinterland is gradually becoming a thing of the past, and its roots are showing signs of loosening here.

"Alpha is not so godly in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao, but there is no other choice before. A person from a new car-making force told the "City Boundary" that when they were doing MPV product research this year, they found that some Alpha car owners in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao have begun to replace other cars.

"There are a lot of ideal L9 and Denza D9 in Shenzhen's high-end community, and it is said that the owner sold Alpha to replace it. Sounds incredible, right? But we asked, indeed. The above-mentioned car company said that many car owners use MPV as a home, so there are more alternatives.

The person believes that the recently released Xpeng X9 and Ideal MEGA are likely to lock in the family MPV market.

"City Boundary" has also noticed that with the stirring of the wave of the new energy era, many car companies are moving towards electrification with MPV models, most of which are mainly aimed at the household market.

Like SAIC MAXUS 9, it is a pure electric MPV, mainly for home use, although it does not have a sense of presence in the mainland, but Hong Kong consumers still recognize this brand. The Hong Kong version of the car is sold at about 457,000 yuan, and in terms of price, it is about the same as the price of Alpha in Hong Kong, and the two sides are in a direct competitive relationship. At present, the car has received good sales in Hong Kong, and the street "visibility" is very high.

The Denza D9, which has been selling well in the mainland this year, has been the sales champion in the luxury MPV market of more than 300,000 yuan for 10 consecutive months, with a price of 335,800-465,800 yuan, and has strong product competitiveness in the family car market.

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha


"City Boundary" also understands that with the "Hong Kong cars going north" and "Macao cars going north", as well as the "Guangdong cars going south" policy under discussion, it may have an impact on the consumption structure of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Macao auto market.

In the past, the cost of a two-place license plate was about hundreds of thousands, and many car owners would hang a piece on Alpha to meet the multi-purpose travel needs of business.

Later, if the new policy is introduced, non-urgent trips between the two places may not require two license plates, which will encourage more vehicles for family use to travel between the two places, which will indirectly allow MPV products that meet the positioning of family cars to get more sales.

From January to October this year, the cumulative sales of Alpha in China were about 15,000 units, while the Denza D9 sold more than 90,000 units.

Even so, these popular models cannot become "Alpha Terminators" for the time being.

Although Toyota Alpha currently has no pure electric products, only hybrids, the challenges of these rising stars have not hurt its roots. In the final analysis, it is not the household customers who decide the fate of Alpha, but the commercial customers.

"Many of the top executives of companies around me choose models for business use based on price and circle recognition. Wang Lei said that the company also bought Mercedes-Benz V-class, Buick Century and Hongqi HQ9, but they were all for the people below, "I definitely still use Alpha." ”

It can be seen that if friends want to break into the rich circle, it will take a long time to confront Alpha head-on. But it's not impossible.

Alpha's sales code for the rich has been seen through by many peers. "There is no shortage of MPVs on the market now, but if you classify them according to luxury and non-luxury, or by price, there are very few MPV models in the million-dollar level. Yu Kexin, vice president of Volvo Cars Greater China Sales Company, once said to the public.

On November 12, Volvo launched its first luxury pure electric MPV model - Volvo EM90, with a manufacturer's guide price of 818,000 yuan, which seems to be a wrestling with Alpha on price.

Chinese car companies want to loosen the soil for Toyota Alpha

Although the outside world questioned that there was no essential difference between Volvo EM90 and ZEEKR 009 (manufacturer's guide price of 49.9-588,000), in the case of reducing a drive motor, it was 300,000 more expensive, and the premium was too serious, but Wang Lei said that he would consider Volvo.

"Like I said, first look at the price. Volvo 800,000 can almost be regarded as a million-level, the brand recognition is okay in the circle, and the design is more stable. Relatively speaking, the price of ZEEKR 009 is not very suitable, the design is a bit avant-garde, there is no problem at home, but it is not suitable for business reception. ”

The logic of buying a car for commercial customers is not to seek the best, but to seek the most expensive.

I still remember that at the Guangzhou Auto Show, He Xiaopeng, chairman and CEO of Xpeng Motors, said when he visited BYD's booth, "You have done a good job, and others dare to sell more than one million." ”

That's true. Although the price of 1.098 million yuan is Yangwang U8, it is positioned as a new energy hard-core off-road SUV, which is not related to MPV models. However, in the eyes of industry insiders, this is a sword that can enable domestic independent brands to enter the million-level luxury market.

"When we were chatting in the circle, there were already people paying attention to it. But I haven't heard of anyone who actually wants to buy it, so maybe it's going to be there later?" said one business owner.

In his opinion, looking up to the circle of high-net-worth people to spread the word and give it a try, maybe it will make the outside world have a new understanding of million-level domestic cars. "In the future, if domestic cars launch million-level sedans and million-level MPVs, more people may be willing to replace Alpha. ”

(The interviewee Wang Lei in the article is a pseudonym)

Author | Huang Shuo

Edit | Tian Yanlin

Operations | Liu Shan

Read on