The Toyota Alphard and Vellfire have become the de facto luxury family vehicles, but how did it get this status?
It's not uncommon to drive past a car dealership and see an array of tissue box on wheels parked at the front. Well, they are there for a reason, and that reason is the fact that these tissue box on wheels have become one of the most sought after cars in Malaysia.
Calling them a tissue box on wheels is quite unfair really because although their shape does remind us of a tissue box, they are one of the most luxurious cars around. Generally, they are loved for their reliability and ability to provide the highest form of comfort and space. With these three attributes part of the car's unique selling point, there's no reason why any Malaysian family wouldn't want one because practicality is king.
The car that we are referring to is of course the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire, but what is it about these cars that people can't get enough of? Why are they the default cars to buy when you want a luxurious family chariot? We examine why.
Apart from the obvious reason being that the seats in these MPVs are like the ones in Etihad's first-class, another reason that Malaysians are completely in love with the twins is simply that it gives them the sense that they are a very important person - it is, after all, a VIP MPV.
When Toyota first built the Alphard, they just wanted to make a capable and comfortable van to help move the family around. It wasn't until the second generation Alphard (introduced in 2008) that Toyota really focused on luxury when it came to their best selling MPV. They even created a new sub-model called the Vellfire, which mainly focused on the youth and pushed the Alphard to a more upmarket segment targeting VIPs. The Alphard featured a Lexus like interior, with curtained windows, captain chairs and a smooth drivetrain moving it. It all came together to make a person feel very relaxed and important. It was a winning formula that was unseen anywhere else.
Mass-market availability is another factor in why the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire have become the default vehicle for a perfect family carrier. Because of this simple reason, the social acceptance of this vehicle grew stronger and stronger, especially when ministers and wealthy businessman started purchasing them over predictable VIP cars like the S-Class or 7-Series. It really did create a sense of belonging - as if the car made the owners part of this VIP club. But who could blame anyone for wanting one, it's comfortable, reliable and luxurious.
There are many MPVs out there, but none of them has the complete package of the Toyota Alphard. Mercedes Benz's V-Class could probably give it a run for its money, but it would also cost you probably RM200k or more to purchase one. Yes, there are some V's around, but they are all either expensive or the less luxurious variants. That's why it has become common for Malaysians to compare a Mercedes Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series to an Alphard because really, they have no choice but to do so. Yet again, it's not really comparing apples to apples so really; the Alphard has no competition.
As we mentioned before, there is just no end to how smart the Alphard and Vellfire twins are. When a product doesn't need a big marketing team to push hard on how RIGHT it is, it generally means it will sell itself. Why? Because the public will do the marketing for them. Everyone knows the Alphard, whether for better or worse. Even my parents who are ignorant of cars know about them, they're just viral.
Till there is a worthy competitor, the Alphard and Vellfire will obviously go on unchallenged and continue to dominate, but even then, it'll be pretty damn hard for any car to dethrone decades of dominance. We Malaysians have known about the twin Toyota luxurious MPVs for some time now but the Americans and Europeans are just finding out about them and guess what, they seem to be liking it so far!
Wants to live the simple life, especially when it comes to cars and bikes. That's what tech is for he reckons, to make motoring simpler