Selective Sales

By flipping the process on its head, Toyota aims to match the first Mirai customers to the car

August 11, 2015

In the conventional car sales process, the primary challenge is to help customers find vehicles that best fit their needs and wants. But with the Mirai, which is anything but conventional, Toyota will match the customer to the car.
 
In July, Toyota powered up a customer request system as an extension to the existing Mirai portal found via Toyota.com. Prospects who would like to explore ownership of the fuel cell vehicle may complete an online questionnaire that will ask questions like where they live, their driving habits, whether they’ve owned a Toyota and, even further, whether they’ve owned an advanced-technology vehicle.
 
Customers who meet the basic Mirai profile will then be interviewed in real time to ensure they’re fully aware of the implications of living with a hydrogen-fueled vehicle on a day-to-day basis.
 
“If a request comes in from someone who lives in Colorado, they will not be getting a Mirai—at least for this initial launch in California,” says Nathan Kokes, Toyota Motor Sales’ marketing manager for Mirai. “If they live in Bakersfield, their Mirai may come later, as the infrastructure develops. So much will depend on their proximity to a hydrogen refueling station.”
 
The overriding objective? To ensure the first adopters of this technology have a positive experience. Obviously, that’s essential for the people who buy a Mirai. But a smooth start is just as critical for Toyota. After all, the company is trying to build momentum for an alternative powertrain that could ultimately replace gasoline as the mainstream transportation fuel of choice.
 
Limited Supply, Strong Demand
 
Due to limited initial supply and—by all indications—strong demand, there’s every reason to believe Toyota’s highly selective sales process will work.
 
“Nationwide, more than 24,000 people have requested that we send them the latest information on Mirai,” says Kokes. “Of those, some 6,000 people live in California. We recently pushed out an informal survey to these folks asking if they were interested in making a purchase. Around 2,000 said yes. We’re confident we can find customers who will be an ideal fit.”
 
In the meantime, Kokes said Toyota will continue to promote awareness of Mirai and its hydrogen fuel cell technology. That includes a series of five YouTube videos. The first, the irreverently titled “Fueled by Bullsh*t,” was released in April. The second, “Fueled by Oil Creek,” debuted in June. Additional installments will follow in late summer and fall. And the final will break right before the retail launch in October.
 
“This is newer technology, but not really new,” says Kokes. “Toyota has been developing it for 20-plus years and has logged more than a million miles in testing. But we’re at the very beginning of actual ownership. We know these initial customers will set the tone for all who will follow. So we’re going to do everything we can to make sure they get off to a strong start.”

By Dan Miller

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