TOYOTA will remain committed to China, despite a 150 per cent duty that will be imposed on imported passenger vehicles in October, says Peter Lee, marketing manager for Toyota Motor (China) Ltd. Mr Lee said although the company anticipated a drop in sales after the duty was introduced, there would still be consumers willing to pay for strong foreign brands, like Toyota. ''The China market will continue to be lucrative after October, as the ratio of cars to people is one to 1,000,'' he said. ''The jump in prices of foreign cars will mean consumers will have to think before they buy and work out if they can afford a new car. ''But those who have enough cash are more than likely to spend it on a foreign brand, rather than a local one, because imported cars are perceived as being more prestigious and of higher quality.'' Mr Lee said many entrepreneurs could still easily afford to - and would - buy foreign cars after the duty was imposed. Once it was introduced, mainland consumers could be paying up to $1.2 million for a Toyota Lexus; in Hong Kong a Lexus cost $800,000, Mr Lee said. Many people took advantage of a government tax exemption from 1991 to 1993, and Toyota sold 20,000 passenger cars, he said. ''Toyota has found there are a number of young executives who have the money and are buying foreign brands, but this trend may not continue and we will be back to square one,'' Mr Lee said. The tax will be effective from October, but many foreign brand distributers believe it will be short-lived. ''The government decided on April 1 that there would be no more tax exemptions as a means of protecting its locally produced brands,'' Mr Lee said. ''But the local brands don't offer devices such as anti-locking brakes, compact disc players and air bags that foreign brands do. ''Chinese brands will not survive because they can't provide these specifications. ''As the country is trying to enter the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), it will eventually have to reduce the prices.'' Even though imported car prices are expected to skyrocket, and their sales to slump, Toyota launched its Camry range in June and is continuing to advertise in Beijing. ''We are continuing to promote our cars as prestigious products that are the best choice for consumers,'' he said. ''We promoted the Camry as a more trendy and sporty model to the Crown, the first car in our range to be sold in China.'' Crown was introduced to China in 1964, and, last year, 16,500 were sold. Mr Lee said Toyota would continue to monitor market progress after the new duty. The company would use the next six months to strengthen its sales methods and image in China. ''This will be the time when car manufacturers should be shaping up their sales teams and pushing their after-sales support services, which will pay off in the future,'' Mr Lee said. ''The quality of a product is going to be a lot more important as the Chinese consumer is going to have to pay a lot of money to get the best. ''Companies will be changing their sales methods and adjusting their products for the new market.'' Mr Lee said the mainland operation would play a large role in keeping Toyota at the top of the car market in China. ''We are the only authorised Toyota distributor to China and the only company that markets Toyota's products in China,'' he said. ''It has only been in the past six months that we have been able to advertise outside six provinces, and we will be looking at moving our advertising campaigns across the country. ''Co-ordinating advertising for the company's entire network under one umbrella will make sure consumers get the same information and will make it easier to promote our corporate image.''