DUESSELDORF - Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz has giant ambitions for Toyota in Europe.
'We want to be one of the five big players,' said Ruiz, 54, who became head of sales and marketing at Toyota Europe this month after a career at Audi and Seat.
Toyota must go a long way to become one of western Europe's five best-selling brands. Fiat was No. 5 in 1997, with sales of 1,288,839 cars and a 9.6 percent share. Last year, Toyota's share was 2.8 percent on sales of 372,575.
'We want to be there and we have the right to be there,' he said in an interview here.
No timetable was given, but Ruiz said Toyota will start by upgrading its sales network and putting more excitement into the brand.
Ruiz, who helped boost Audi's image, said Toyota can get there by redefining itself in Europe.
In the past, he said, the main Toyota message was based on rational values -good performance and high technology.
'Now we need to go for emotional factors,' he said. 'We need to put spirit back into driving. In general, today's cars are overengineered. Too much reliability made them lose soul. Cars became very reliable and perfect, but dull.'
Ruiz said Toyota has two core values. 'One is peace of mind, and the other is fun and enjoyment,' he said. 'Carefree enjoyment is the message we want to express.'
The first step is to discuss a new brand and product strategy with dealers, distributors and Toyota's advertising agency.
He plans to modify dealer contracts to raise the quality of outlets and make dealers more profitable.
He also plans to add dealer training programs and simplify logistics.
Ruiz said Toyota's strength lies in its wide range of offerings. 'With 35 different body styles and 26 different engines,' he said, 'you can specify a Toyota in 900 different ways.'
The sport and leisure segment is the main image builder, he said. But the premium segment, dominated by German brands, presents an opportunity. A fast-growing new clientele of young managers will benefit Toyota's Lexus brand.
The target Lexus buyers are 'intelligent, open minded, highly individualistic and sensible customers, of high education,' said Ruiz.
'These are people who don't need to show what they have and tend to an understated style. Bill Gates drives a Lexus, and he is a good example for the no badging society.'