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TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp.'s attempts to attract young buyers in Japan continue to founder.

In a potentially serious blow to Toyota's youth-marketing drive, two of its founding partners in the WiLL co-branding program have jumped ship. The program, launched in August 1999, included products ranging from cars to beer and candy that were sold under the lifestyle-oriented WiLL brand name.

At its peak, the orange WiLL label appeared on about 30 products from seven companies.

But two big companies - Kao Corp., a consumer-products giant in the mold of Procter & Gamble, and Asahi Breweries Ltd., Japan's biggest brewery - dropped out late last month in a strong signal that the concept may be unraveling.

Toyota's idea was to use hip, cross-product advertising tie-ins to reach younger buyers. Like the other companies involved, Toyota also hoped to learn marketing approaches used by other industries.

"We joined the project on a three-year basis. We left as planned," said a spokesman for Kao, which marketed a WiLL-brand deodorizer. "We have achieved our original objective - learning marketing from different businesses."

A spokesman for Asahi Breweries offered similar reasons for dropping. "Our objective - to learn marketing targeted at the younger generation, horizontally - has been achieved," he said.

Toyota's WiLL-branded cars have been a flop in Japan. One car, the Yaris/Echo-based Vi, was killed in December after two years on the market, while sales of a second, the Corolla-based VS, are limping along far under target.

A third model, the telematics-wired VC, will be launched next month.

The Vi, aimed at young women, and the VS, aimed at young men, had a modest sales target of 1,500 a month each. Both hit their demographic targets, but not their sales targets.

The Vi met its target only in the first few months after its January 2000 launch. By January 2001, sales had dropped to about 500 a month. Toyota stopped building the Vi, which looked like a New Beetle with a wedge cut out of its rear roofline, last December.

Toyota sold 2,143 WiLL VS models in May 2001, its first full month on sale. But the following month's sales dropped below target to 1,343, and the car has never recovered. In the first seven months of 2002, Toyota sold only 4,922 WiLL VS cars, or about 700 a month.

But Toyota says it is reaching its target audience with the concept. The approximate average age of WiLL VS buyers, a spokesman said, is 30 to 35, compared with Toyota's average in Japan of 40-50.

Toyota's best hit in its attempts to lure 20-something buyers has been the stubby, low-riding bB, which will be the basis for one car in the Scion lineup in the United States. It has drawn buyers with an average age of about 30.

Through July, bB sales are down 34.8 percent from a year earlier, to 28,009, or 4,001 a month. But that number means the funky car still is achieving its sales targets 2½ years after its February 2000 launch.

Sales of Toyota's other youth-oriented cars are sliding. For example, sales of the Opa through July are off 50.4 percent to 8,054. It was launched in May 2000.
 

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toyota marketing stragety sucks. all their attempts to bring youth into the the brand had faltered. they are going at it the wrong way.
look at the corolla S, matrix, mr2,echo, even the celica [maybe not as much] are all plain products from toyota to try to break into the youth market. they need new marketing people or soemthing.

and now they are planning on a whole new product line called the scion. i think that will falter too, since all the cars look really crapy and no performance.
 

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i tell you something real good that will help them with the celica. put out about 240 horse that 30 more than the 1999 eclipse. i bet the young peeps will change their mind.
 
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