Toyota South Africa Motors says it expects the premium market to be “hit the hardest” by COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to journalists during a virtual roundtable attended by CARmag.co.za, Leon Theron, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Toyota SA, suggested many local customers would be forced to buy down into more affordable vehicles.

“We really don’t know what is going to happen in the market. But what we do foresee happening is that the premium market will probably be hit the hardest, which will probably force customers to buy into your lower-end vehicles,” Theron said.

While Theron suggested it was too early to predict what sort of impact the pandemic would have on Toyota SA’s annual sales figures, he said the company was still targeting a “respectable number”.

“Of course, our sales numbers for the year will drop; we have no doubt about that. But, as we’ve said to Toyota Japan, from a Toyota South Africa point of view, our dealers are resilient, we are resilient, and … we would still like to sell a very respectable number.”

Earlier, Toyota SA said the COVID-19 lockdown had so far cost its Prospecton plant nearly 13 500 production units.

The Japanese firm’s local arm builds the Hilux, Fortuner, Corolla Quest and Hiace (as well as assembles certain Hino models) at its factory in the south of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.