Marketing Vans: Toyota Alphard and Vellfire

Mike Stevens | May 14, 2008

Earlier this week, Toyota launched the next generation of its flagship JDM luxo-van. Unlike the rest of the civilized world, in Japanland a minivan can actually serve as luxury vehicle. It makes sense; they offer plenty of headroom, space for cargo or factory installed amenities, and contortion-free entry/egress for panty-eschewing Hollywood starlets. It's no wonder that the Japanese often use vans as a second, street-legal flat. The Japanese do not take their vans lightly.

toyotaalphard04

The top dogs of the minivan world have long been the Nissan Elgrand and the Toyota Alphard. Rotate your head in the general direction of any street in Tokyo and you're bound to see one dressed to the nines, with fender scraping chrome wheels and at least a dozen LCD screens casting their bluish glow on neighboring prefectures. As an indication of their purpose, a popular option is loading the back with barcalounger-type seating rather than a conventional minivan bench, all of which recline, even those in the third row.

toyotavellfire04

So when Toyota launches a completely redesigned Alphard, it's big news. But what's even bigger news is that this time, it has a twin. Apparently, Toyota believes there's enough room in this rarefied segment to offer not one, but two ostentatious people movers. The Vellfire is completely identical in every way mechanically, powered by either a 2.4L inline four mated to a CVT or a seven-speed automatic, or a 3.5L V6 and six-speed automatic. These units drive the front wheels for now, but requisite AWD versions will arrive in August.

toyotavellfire03

Problem is, when you have two identical cars that differ only in sheetmetal, how can you differentiate them so sales of one don't cannibalize the other? The answer: marketing. Toyota has positioned the Alphard as the one for customers looking for "elegance and refinement" while the Vellfire, a demonic-sounding name derived from combining "velvet" and "fire", targets those who want "power and innovation." In case you're wondering what that means, a clue may reside in the vans' respective commercials. For the Alphard, it's all airy, majestic scenes bathed in light while classical music plays; for the Vellfire, helicopters tail a caravan of them driven in military precision as they change formation to an industrial rock soundtrack. If that sounds like empty marketing-speak to you, that's because it is.

[Source, Images: Toyota]

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Filed under: Nissan, Toyota, GM, sales, Mini, sl, Fire, japan, EV, tac, MG, rs, 612, awd, is, ve, US, ss, van, V6, auto, esp, ti, News, new, sale, sound, z, sti, TT, motor, Gran, Seat, mb, market, i, x, car, design, fr, rl, cars, FF, red, tl, ring, report, OFFER, g, LED, launch, custom, trial, tokyo, minivan, luxury, jdm, Track, classic, Type S, ARC, dent, top, lv, may, heel, air, LCD, nissa, Land, people mover, 675, lounge, hollywood, enthusiast

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  • Toyota Van Lease says,
    7 years ago
    1 like
    Great marketing for Toyota, personally I would go for the Vellfire just for the name!!
  • RavRen says,
    6 years ago
    So will this car be launched in Australia too? I've been waiting for the Toytoa Alphard to be for sale in Aust for a long time!
    • Ben Hsu says,
      6 years ago
      Sadly, no... there are no plans yet.
  • RavRen says,
    6 years ago
    Can it be imported to Aust through Toyota (Aust) or other independent dealers? Hesitant with ind dealers though....any guide / advice? Thanks
  • Alan Li says,
    6 years ago
    The girlfriend's relatives have an Alphard. Its so cool.

    Toyota Australia cannot and will not privately import it for you. They don't have the infrastructure in place to support it once it lands.

    Which means you have to wait until they come up with a business plan that involves bringing them in as a proper import. Given the unpopularity of people movers in Australia, that's not likely to ever happen.

    Grey importing is also going to be a struggle. I don't think anyone has Compliance plates for the Alphard, and there's probably not enough demand for them to go through the effort of getting them.

    Your only option is a private import. You need to find an Australian citizen living overseas who can own and use the car for a year before bringing it into the country. That can either be you, or someone who sells the car to you when they get back to Aus.
  • Alan Li says,
    6 years ago
    1 like
    While they don't have Alphards, those interested in some JDM van goodness can pick up a grey import Nissan Elgrand.

    I've seen one in Sydney, and I've found some turbodiesels advertised on grey import car sellers' sites.
  • Max Tsang says,
    6 years ago
    Why Toyota Tarago not selling very good in Australia market, because it is not stylish and luxury enough campare with Alphard which is Toyota as well. If Toyota Australia bring Alphard into Aus market personly i dont mind spending 90k to buy one. I was planning to buy one 7 seat last year after my son borned, sadly there is not many choices, Finally i have to buy a X5 with option on 7 seat. Afterall I spend more on a car that is not what I wanted in the first place.
  • Alan says,
    6 years ago
    I am planning to buy a Merc R Class because all other people movers in Aust look too ugly and cheap. My old man had a Alphard in Hongkong and it is a very nice car but it's available in Aus.
  • Phil says,
    6 years ago
    I have an Alphard and am coming back to Australia in a month any help I can get on how to import it is needed. Is it worth the hassle of the paper work? How high are taxes, and how do you get compliance plates?
    Need help.
  • Cedric says,
    5 years ago
    Some of my friends personally imported their ElGrand E51 & Alphards, Be VERY careful buying grey imports these days, Not because of the issues with vehicle or parts... BUT in NSW our silly RTA just tagged my sister's Elgrand E50 Rider (fully option with air suspension) Complied to SEAT 4... apparently grey import people movers are being tag 4 seaters. (ie Grandvia, Elgrand) Must be a secret deal with local dealers with RTA so we are forced to buy boring local import people movers.
  • krishna says,
    5 years ago
    When this car will be import to UK
  • Mark says,
    5 years ago
    Sasaki have a couple for sale in the UK, including a brand new hybrid smile
  • simon says,
    5 years ago
    hi there

    i have the alphard AS full body kit in uk..i think i am the very first one to have this model in uk also with toyota uk satnav too...very cool.
  • azo says,
    5 years ago
    hi simon,
    where are u in UK? I lives near heathrow and just own this big AS too.. 2002 model anyway. Thought of putting some ICE. Not many in UK I reckon...
  • GORDON LEE says,
    4 years ago
  • GORDON LEE says,
    4 years ago
    yes i know the alphard in shenzhen, china, and there are many in hong kong, they are very stylish and very stable on the road, 140km a hour very comfortable, i also did call toyota in brisbane, and no body called me back about bringing them into australia, like many things in australia you do not get the good models here
  • GORDON LEE says,
    4 years ago
  • J. Craigs says,
    2 years ago
    I know noone has posted here for awhile, but I haven't come across any other info about the vellfire and Alphards in Aus on the net.
    And I agree with Gordon Lee....we don't get the good oil in Aus.
    sad Damn I wish Toyota and Nissan would just bring them into this country. They are just so much better and higher quality than the other people movers are.
    And not forgetting the Elgrands. Which I am looking at now getting. Though why do we have Elgrands here and not the others I wonder??
    I spent time in Japan and boy, they have some real head turning people movers over there. I haven't seen anything like them over here to date. Not even close.
    • Pete Dunster says,
      2 years ago
      I have to agree that in Aus we don't get any of the really 'nice' vehicles that can be found in most other countries. I really can't understand why Toyota or Nissan in Australia wouldn't want to import and sell a vehicle that could blow their competition away ..isn't that the Holy Grail of marketing? Could it be that the MPV market in Aus is very small because there are no descent MPV's in this market?
      If you want an alternative to the Elgrand, the immediate predecessor to the Alphard, the Grand Hiace (the name changed in 2002), is available in Aus. I bought one 6 months ago and still get a kick out of driving it!

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