Target Costing Approach to Pricing

Learning Objective of the Article:

  1. Define and explain target costing.
  2. Compute the target cost for a new product or service. What are advantages and disadvantages of target costing approach.

In traditional costing system it is presumed that a product has already been developed, has been costed, and is ready to be marketed as soon as a price is set. In many cases, the sequence of events is just the reverse. That is, the company already knows what price should be charged, and the problem is to develop a product that can be marketed profitably at the desired price. Even in this situation, where the normal sequence of events is reversed, cost is still a crucial factor. The company can use an approach called target costing.

  1. Definition and Explanation of Target Costing
  2. Reasons for Using Target Costing Technique
  3. Example of Target Costing Process
  4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Target Costing

Definition, Explanation and Formula of Target Costing:

Target costing is the process of determining the maximum allowable cost for a new product and then developing a prototype that can be profitably made for that maximum target cost figure. A number of companies–primarily in Japan–use target costing, including Compaq, Culp, Cummins Engine, Daihatsu Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Isuzu Motors, ITT, NEC, and Toyota etc.

The target costing for a product is calculated by starting with the product’s anticipated selling price and then deducting the desired profit. Following formula or equation further explains this concept:

Target Cost = Anticipated selling price – Desired profit

The product development team is then given the responsibility of designing the product so that it can be made for no more than the target cost.

Following set of activities further explains the concept of target costing technique:


Determine Customer Wants and Price Sensitivity
Planned Selling Price is Set
Target Cost is Determined As: Selling Price Less Desired Profit
Teams of Employees from Various Areas and Trusted Vendors Simultaneously
Design Product Determine Manufacturing Process Determine Necessary Raw Materials
Costs are Considered Throughout this Process. The Process Requires Trade-offs to Meet Target Costs
Once Target Cost is Achieved the Manufacturing Begins and Product is Sold

Reasons for Using Target Costing Technique:

The target costing approach was developed in recognition of two important characteristics of markets and costs. The first is that many companies have less control over price than they would like to think. The market (i.e., supply and demand) really determines prices, and a company that attempts to ignore this does so at its peril. Therefore, the anticipated market price is taken as a given in target costing. The second observation is that most of the cost of a product is determined in the design stage. Once a product has been designed and has gone into production, not much can be done to significantly reduce its cost. Most of the opportunities to reduce cost come from designing the product so that it is simple to make, uses inexpensive parts, and is robust and reliable. If the company has little control over market price and little control over cost once the product has gone into production, then it follows that the major opportunities for affecting profit come in the design stage where valuable features that customers are willing to pay for can be added and where most of the costs are really determined. So that it is where the effort is concentrated–in designing and developing the product. The difference between target costing and other approaches to product development is profound. Instead of designing the product and then finding out how much it costs, the target cost is set first and then the product is designed so that the target cost is attained.

Example of Target Costing:

To provide a simple numerical example of target costing, assume the following situations:

Handy Appliance Company feels that there is a market niche for a hand mixer with certain new features. Surveying the features and prices of hand mixers already in the market, the marketing department believes that a price of $30 would be about right for the new mixer. At that price, marketing estimates that 40,000 of new mixers could be sold annually. To design, develop, and produce these new mixers, an investment of $2,000,000 would be required. The company desires a 15% return on investment (ROI). Given these data, the target cost to manufacture, sell, distribute, and service one mixer is $22.50 as calculated below:

Projected sales (40,000 mixers  $30 per mixer ) $1,200,000
Less desired profit (15%  $2,000,000) 300,000
Target cost for 40,000 mixers $9,00,000
Target cost per mixer ($9,00,000 / 40,000 mixer) $22.50

This $22.5 target cost would be broken into target cost for the various functions: manufacturing, marketing, distribution, after-sales service, and so on. Each functional area would be responsible for keeping its actual costs within target.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Target Costing Approach:

Target costing has the following main advantages or benefits:

  1. Proactive approach to cost management.
  2. Orients organizations towards customers.
  3. Breaks down barriers between departments.
  4. Implementation enhances employee awareness and empowerment.
  5. Foster partnerships with suppliers.
  6. Minimize non value-added activities.
  7. Encourages selection of lowest cost value added activities.
  8. Reduced time to market.

Target costing approach has the following main disadvantages or limitations:

  1. Effective implementation and use requires the development of detailed cost data.
  2. its implementation requires willingness to cooperate
  3. Requires many meetings for coordination
  4. May reduce the quality of products due to the use of cheep components which may be of inferior quality.
In Business | Target Costing Approach–An Iterative Process:Target costing Technique is widely used in Japan. In the automobile industry, the target cost for a new model is decomposed into target costs for each of the elements of the car–down to a target cost for each of the individual parts. The designers draft a trial blueprint, and a check is made to see if the estimated cost of the car is within reasonable distance of the target cost. If not, design changes are made, and a new trial blueprint is drawn up. This process continues until there is sufficient confidence in the design to make a prototype car according to the trial blueprint. If there is still a gap between the target cost and estimated cost, the design of the car will be further modified.

After repeating this process a number of times, the final blueprint is drawn up and turned over to the production department. In the first several months of production, the target costs will ordinarily not be achieved due to problems in getting a new model into production. However after that initial period, target costs are compared to actual costs and discrepancies between the two are investigated with the aim of eliminating the discrepancies and achieving target costs.

Source: Yasuhiro Monden and Kazuki Hamada, “Target Costing-Kaizen Costing in Japanese Automobile Companies,” Journal of Management Accounting Research 3, pp. 16-34.

You may also be interested in other articles form “pricing products and services” chapter:

  1. Price Elasticity of Demand – Economists’ Approach to Pricing
  2. Absorption Costing Approach to Cost Plus Pricing
  3. Target Costing
  4. Time and Material Pricing in Service Companies

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