Daihatsu will withdraw from all European markets by January 2013 because of the continuing strength of the Yen the company has announced. There are currently no cars in stock at dealerships, and importer International Motors says it is unlikely that any more will be imported between now and the official withdrawal from the UK and other European markets. In the interim, parts, servicing and warranty work will still be carried out. The company website is now just a lonely single page with a list of dealers and the terse, if heartfelt message: “We thank Daihatsu customers for their past custom and loyalty, and share their disappointment at this news.”
What will thousands of pensioners do now? Is it just the Yen behind this move or is there something else? Suzuki recently had to recall 177,692 of its WagonR and six other mini models including those it produces for other automakers because of defective door parts, but that doesn’t seem to have put it off maintaining a European presence, despite the evident disadvantage of the Yen’s strength. Of course, Suzuki has enjoyed some pretty good results in India, which help to subsidise the UK and European market.
Daihatsu models like Copen had made inroads into a much younger market. Looking like a Corgi version of the Audi TT, the Copen was and is undeniably cute! Driving one meant that women would point and want one while men would look for the hole in the roof where the key went in! Some drivers seemed to be more willing to let the Copen pull out ahead of them at junctions while cyclists appeared to fancy their chances in a game of chicken!
Build quality did seem to vary across some of the range though. Models like the Terios, whilst being an attractive package in terms of cost and real off-road capability, had a notoriously bumpy ride. The Materia is a striking design that drives well and has a reasonable amount of space. The Sirion is nippy city car similar to Subaru’s Justy and although it was never going to challenge the Panda it did feature surprising frequently in the records of temporary car insurance providers, indicating that lot’s of people actually bought one and were willing to lend it out too. Daihatsu were undeniably a popular brand with a pretty loyal following. They were city car specialists, offering small cars and nothing but small cars, so you would think that they had a bright future?
Daihatsu is actually part of the Toyota group, so could the real problem lie partly in the currency but also with the fact that they are part of the wrong Japanese auto group? A flurry of product recalls, government fines, lawsuits and settlements have decimated the reputation of Toyota. Apart from tha, many commentators think they have an aging line up of boring cars. Style didn’t seem to count for much with Toyota as it has historically sold more on reputation, safety and reliability but all the recalls scuppered that proposition. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda acknowledges that Toyota need to improve exterior styling and come up with something more exciting. Removing one possible contender in the quirky design stakes (the Daihatsu Materia for example with its innovative, if polarising, look and style and the funky Copen) would leave the field open for smaller, hopefully trendier, Toyota models. Perhaps it’s on that altar that Daihatsu marque in Europe has been sacrificed?