The Toyota Qualis marked the entry of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Limited - a joint venture of Toyota Motor Corporation and Kirloskar Group - in India in 2000. The company had already launched a massive ad-campaign towards the 2nd half of 1999 announcing its arrival in the Indian market. Although everyone knew the brand, Toyota still used the tagline "Touch & Try" for those who had never tried out a Toyota before. Excitement was building up in 1999 amongst the Indian buyers who really expected a good car from Toyota. But in January when Toyota launched the Qualis (short for Quality and Service), reactions were mixed. Potential buyers expected a modern looking vehicle and were disappointed when a dated model was launched. Rival companies rejoiced thinking that an outdated model will never beat their vehicles.
But things took a drastic turn in a few months when people actually "touched and tried" the car. The Qualis introduced at the time when there were only 2 players in the market - the Mahindra Bolero and the Tata Sumo. Although the Qualis was a Multi Utility Vehicle (MUV), it wasnt targeted at MUV buyers. It felt very car like and the quality and refinement of the Qualis was what differentiated between the Bolero and Sumo. The Variants
The Qualis was launched in January 2000 at an on-road price of around 5.7 lakhs for the base variant and 8 lakhs for the top-end variant. The models that were introduced were the FS (Family Saloon) and the GS ( Grand Saloon) and GS-T (Grand Saloon Touring).
- The Family Saloon (FS) model was the entry level model and the cheapest variant of the Qualis. It was a bare-basic model which was actually targetted for the tourist business (read that as Sumo). This model came without a/c and power steering and these luxuries were available only as an option. The FS Model was a 10 seater with a bench seat for the passenger in the first row and side facing seats in the last row. So the seating configuration was a 3+3+4. It was available in a choice of 3 solid colors i.e. White, Red and Blue. There were further variants within the FS range - B1, B2, B3, B4 and B5. Since the FS was the base version targetted towards Sumo/Bolero buyers, Toyota offered this model with minimum equipment and with only solid colors. Metallic paint was not even offered on the FS Model - and to make things worse, there was a choice of only 3 colors - Maroon, Dark Blue and White. The lowest variant of the FS model did not even have Power Steering, Power Windows and A/C. To make matters worse, even decals were not offered standard on the FS model.
- The Grand Saloon (GS) was the model that was targetted at the family buyer. It was available in 8 and 10 seater configuration. The 10-seater configuration was similar to the FS Model. The 8-seater had a bucket seat on the front row and forward facing seat in the last row - thereby making the seating configuration as 2+3+3. The GS model was equipped with a side cladding/fender and even a classy looking aluminium footboard. It was also available in a choice of 3 metallic colors i.e silver, maroon and teal. Power steering and a/c were standard on the GS. Although other options such as power windows, locks were also offered as options across the GS range.
- The Grand Saloon-Touring was introduced a few months later and was priced at around 9+ lakhs. This was the top-of-the-line Qualis which had all the bells and whisltes. Power steering and windows, Checquered flag decals, alloy wheels, bull-bar with integrated fog lamps, dual A/C, Central locking, De-fogger, Rear spoiler and wiper.
Toyota also launched a limited edition which carried huge Toyota stickers all over the side of the car. This was introduced, as far as I know, only on the FS model and that too with a silver color (with blue and white Toyota stickering). However the Qualis success had hit Toyota so badly that they tried introducing petrol version of the Qualis to compete in the premium car segment. However a combination of an expensive price tag and a poor fuel efficiency ensure that this model was a flop in the market.
With the introduction of the Chevrolet Tavera and the Scorpio, Toyota knew it had to do something and replace the ageing Qualis. Again expectations were high when the Kijang received a face lift in other South East Asian markets. However Toyota skipped the new Kijang and introduced just a face-lifted version of the Qualis. The face-lifted model shared the same body / engine / interior from the existing Qualis. The only difference were the chrome grille, new bumpers, multi-reflector headlights, tail lights with reflectors on the tailgate and wider tyres. The face-lift also saw the introduction of the petrol Qualis i.e RS (Royal Saloon) which turned out to be a flop.
Toyota also launched a couple of Limited Edition Qualis' later - the best of them being the Myst. The Myst too was available as an FS model with metallic black paint, side cladding, cup holders, GS wheelcaps, body stickering.