Yes, the pandemic has had a telling effect on business expectations. But don't let that dissuade anyone from shifting gears or changing lanes towards reset priorities. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Nothing emphasizes the need for business agility more than a global crisis. And our quick response to recent market challenges might provide some insights on how businesses can strive, more than just survive, during this downturn.

A commonly understood notion when racing cars is that an overtake move is set up at the turn, and not at the straight. This simply means that it’s strategically easier to gain on another race car during a corner... when all drivers must slow down.

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Racers who execute turns perfectly are then able to accelerate out of bends with much stronger momentum – hence, allowing them to take or expand their lead.

The same is true in business. It’s much easier to overtake or expand market leadership during a crisis, when all other competitors are decelerating. And those who expertly navigate through challenges are then able to recover at a faster pace when the market resumes.

These days, organizations that once looked forward to 2020 with positive profit predictions are mired in uncertainty. However, there are those that have managed to thrive during the pandemic, doing so by the grace of their agility.

Not fixated on the bad news

Looking back at when the threat of the global pandemic was just slowly becoming reality, we quickly analyzed the situation and all its possible consequences. While we naturally took careful consideration of all the risks we faced, we also focused on opportunities that lay ahead. We searched for good news amidst all the challenges.

Here are some of those opportunities, and how we capitalized on them in service to our customers.

From couch to car

In response to recommendations to stay at home, Toyota was among the very first in the automotive sector to launch a fully comprehensive e-commerce platform. Our website now allows customers to buy a car, trade-in, and even apply for financing – from the comfort of their couch.

More for lease

In realizing that liquidity and cashflow are critical to business survival these days, we expanded the lease programme for retail and corporate clients. Commercial leasing solutions meant companies could easily eliminate large, upfront investments, and take recurring costs like maintenance out of the bottom-line.

Capture the moment

One industry that has certainly grown is home delivery. Market data from SEMrush has shown that online searches related to ‘online grocery’ in the UAE increased by a whopping 560 per cent between January and March 2020.

To allow our corporate customers to ride this growth trend, Toyota designed conversion kits for our popular commercial models such as the Rush, Hiace and Hilux – which transform these vehicles into courier cars, refrigerated units, and even cargo vans.

Provide the wheels

Stemming from our crystal ball gazing exercises, we also foresee a trend in domestic tourism. We embarked on relaunch campaigns for the Granvia luxury mover as well as the Previa MPV – both vehicles for long road trips. We also announced the arrival of the Hilux Adventure – the first-ever retail focused variant of the Hilux range, [and] a model suitable for sporty (and social distancing) family activities such as off-road exploration and camping.

To address any potential market uncertainty among the expat community, we launched a payment protection plan. This offer is applicable across all models and covers up to six-month installments - or up to Dh20,000 - in case of involuntary loss of employment.

The payment protection plan remains extremely attractive for our consumers. This was highlighted when we conducted a series of surveys, which show that the majority considered the plan to be either “valuable” or “extremely valuable” towards helping them make their purchase decision.

As industry figures ending July have shown, Toyota has so far significantly increased its market share in the UAE non-luxury automotive segment from 32.8 per cent in 2019 to 36 per cent year-to-date. More importantly, our actions allowed us to strengthen our relationships even during challenging times.

- Lito German is General Manager, Product and Brand Marketing at Al-Futtaim Toyota.