The Vellfire has a sort of love-hate relationship among Malaysians. It is cheaper (RM 367,881) than the Alphard (RM 446,609) and though it's only available with a 2.5-litre inline-4 officially, 3.5-litre V6 options are available through recond dealers.
As such, you do often see more Vellfires on Malaysian roads than Alphards. However, the Vellfire’s popularity is quite the opposite in its home market. Based on sales data by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA), Toyota sold 56,778 units of the Alphard in the first half of 2021 while only 4,845 units of the Vellfire were sold in the same period.
The Alphard has been ranked in the Top 5 almost every month so far while the Vellfire was kicked out of the Top 50. Why are Japanese buyers more inclined to the Alphard and not the Vellfire?
The Vellfire was first introduced in 2008 as a sister model to the Alphard. As such, both models were sold under different Toyota dealers with the Alphard exclusively sold through Toyopet stores while the Vellfire was sold through Toyota Netz outlets.
It was the reason why many Vellfires that were sold through the grey market in Malaysia sported the Toyota Netz logo instead of a conventional Toyota emblem.
Initially, the Vellfire outsold the Alphard because there were more Toyota Netz dealers than Toyopet dealers in the country. However, once Toyota decided to unify all of its dealership networks (the others being the Toyota and Corolla stores) in 2020, sales of the Alphard started to rise and eventually overtook the Vellfire.
With the Alphard becoming more accessible to buyers, many buyers simply decided to go for it over the Vellfire. Some buyers of the Alphard were also previously long-time Vellfire owners who wanted to switch it up.
Reason #2 – Exquisiteness over sportiness
According to Japanese media, the moment that gave the Alphard an advantage over its twin was when both luxury breadboxes on wheels got a minor facelift in 2018. This gave the Alphard an even more opulent and striking look which won over buyers.
The stately “Alphard mask” brought a sense of exquisiteness to the MPV unlike its predecessors. Almost immediately, the country’s power brokers, celebrities, and bigwigs from both the corporate side as well as the underworld were seen being driven in one.
Such was the popularity of the Alphard that not only did it affect Lexus’ sales in Japan but also Toyota’s traditional flagship model, the Crown. In the first half of 2021, Toyota sold 12,727 units of the large sedan which was around 22% of the Alphard’s sales.
Meanwhile, the sportiness of the Vellfire didn’t curry much favours among buyers. Though both models share the same grade and features, eventually, Toyota would trim down the number of variants for the Vellfire to only 3 while buyers could choose between 12 variants of the Alphard.
On a side note, Toyota’s other MPV twins saw an opposite in terms of sales. The sportier-looking Voxy outsold the Noah by less than half in H1 2021. Perhaps this is due to the MPV being smaller and more catered to younger families.
Used Japanese cars are often favoured overseas and there is a demand for certain models that they even become hot commodity among thieves. It’s not restricted to classic JDMs, even the Alphard is ranked as among the most stolen car in Japan.
The Toyota Alphard holds quite a high resale value and as it is a considerably pricey car, some buyers are willing to buy one used instead. Regardless whether it’s bought brand-new or used, the resale value remains high due to demand from overseas.
The Alphard is a popular car in many Asian countries and even if some of those countries offer it officially, the grey market still offers more choices to most buyers. Especially if they wish to get one with a smaller engine or in a shade that is not muted.
As mentioned earlier, the Vellfire still has some demand overseas but these don’t account for much. Besides, Toyota is also cutting down some of its models following its streamlining of dealers. Toyota offers nearly 50 different models in Japan but is cutting down and discontinuing most of them to save costs.
The Vellfire then got the short end of the stick despite both being virtually identical. The Alphard’s overwhelmingly strong sales combined with Toyota’s reduced number of variants are proofs of that. So long then, Vellfire, you will be missed by some.