Toyota’s Motability and Public Sector Manager, Charles Holcomb, discusses the importance of getting products and service levels right for disabled customers.
Why is Motability so important to Toyota?
It’s a significant part of the UK car market and of course we want to have a presence in it.
As a company that focuses on its corporate and social responsibility worldwide, providing mobility solutions to all is something that is very important to Toyota. Being involved with a charitable organisation such as Motability, which provides access to vehicle for those with disabilities, aligns with this mindset.
It’s also a marketplace that we believe benefits from the Toyota product line-up. As a Motability customer one of the important things they look for is reliability and this is something we pride ourselves on at Toyota.
How do you make sure that dealership staff have proper understanding of their disabled customers?
We encourage our Centres to have a close relationship with the Motability Dealer Development team ensuring they understand, and therefore provide, the standards and the levels of support that Motability Customers need. Toyota actively encourages them to be involved in their local communities in order to gain a better understanding of all of their customers, some of whom will not be on the scheme.
As well as encouraging Centres to reach out and engage with their local community we undertake best practice workshops. This is in conjunction with Motability so that the messages on understanding the importance of the service they provide to Motability customers is consistent – irrespective of the customer or the Centre.
Toyota has also produced guidelines detailing best practice regarding how the various standards work and what is expected when dealing with a Motability customer. These tie in with our own retail standards programme. Motability customers are now part of our feedback process for all retail customers. This ensures they are being understood and the service is of a level they expect. Our average score for customer recommendation has been exceptionally high.
It must be difficult to sell in such an intense marketplace and retain the required level of sensitivity to the needs of disabled customers…
Our focus is on the customer experience, this is of paramount importance to us. The customers’ experience should mean they are more likely to recommend Toyota as a brand to friends and family. If you get experience right every time, the sales and numbers will take care of themselves.
Toyota does not want its customers just to be satisfied by the experience they’ve had, we want them to tell everyone about the great experience Toyota provided them. Our focus for the Motability customer is on their experience and to ensure the service levels provided are of a level that both the customer and Motability themselves are delighted.
What’s your best advice to customers looking at taking on a Motability vehicle?
Our advice would be, test drive or ‘accompany drive’ as many vehicles as possible – that will always establish that the vehicle is fit for purpose. One thing that Toyota is very keen on is that the customer actually tries the vehicle for a suitable period of time to ensure it is right for them.
Toyota has some new ideas too…
We believe that our hybrid vehicles are fit for purpose and now more affordable for Motability customers: they have an automatic gearbox and great fuel economy plus the environmental and air quality benefits that come with this type of technology. I would again say that Motability Customers should try as many vehicles as possible in order to make sure they get the right one. Try models that aren’t necessarily something that they’ve looked at or used before because technology has made great advancements.
For example, they may have only considered or driven a diesel manual before, but there’s the potential that an alternative in the marketplace, like a Toyota hybrid would suit their needs – and be more viable and appropriate.
What’s Available From Toyota?
With over 100 models currently available on the Motability Scheme, it’s clear that Toyota is committed to helping disabled drivers to get on the road. Models available include the: Aygo, RAV 4 and Yaris but the ones we like the look of best are the Auris and Verso.
Toyota Auris 1.2T Icon 5dr
From the outside, the Toyota Auris doesn’t necessarily look like a family car. Its crisp, angular styling seems at odds with anything cuddly or soft. The LED headlamps and small grille make it look fairly austere.
Actually, the point is that it’s functional and tidy. The Auris handles well with plenty of grip as befits a car of this class and the resulting ride is confident and straightforward with few distractions for the driver. In fact, it’s what you might call ‘composed’, no bad thing when all about you are losing their heads during the school run. The petrol engines are a little noisy on fast roads but do run very nicely.
The Auris has the ring of reliability about it, and this chimes with the fact that it now carries a five-year warranty. Indeed, reliability is what Toyota does and it passes that test with flying colours.
Standard kit on Auris models includes front, side and curtain airbags, as well as an airbag that protects the driver’s knees (totalling seven) as well as stability control. The Auris achieved the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Again, the interior is kitted out with a tidy, robust feel; ideal for family usage. It’s dark, muted palette will help to hide the inevitable marks and scrapes from getting the kids in as well as any kit you carry. The boot isn’t huge but is quite tall and practical.
CO2 Emissions: 112g/km
Advance Motability Payment: £0
Toyota Verso 1.6 Icon 5dr
The Toyota Verso makes a virtue out of the fact that it isn’t the biggest MPV on the road. For one thing it’s easier to park but still packs in enough versatility to make it a perfectly decent family car.
All Verso models have seven seats as standard (but the Active model is also available with just five). This means that there are an astonishing 32 configurations possible with the second row of three individual seats built to slide back and forwards, allowing for a larger boot or more legroom. The pair of seats at the very rear can be lowered with a pull of a lever and fold completely flat.
The Verso sports a grille and LED headlights that mark it out as an assured, practical but stylish vehicle and this is confirmed in the handling which is easy and relaxed in town and controlled on fast roads. The ride is assured and wind and road noise are effectively muffled.
The Verso’s interior again carries the flag for quietly styled practicality and will likely take the various knocks associated with being a family car in its stride. Anybody in the market for a family car will also doubtless be attracted by its maximum five star rating in the Euro NCAP test and its seven airbags.
Drivers will appreciate the high seating position and the good all-round visibility (plus a little help from the reversing camera) as well as the hill-start assist.
CO2 Emissions: 157g/km
Advance Motability Payment: £195